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Volume 4, Number I 



ISSN 1023-3679 
August 1995 




Department of Ornithology, National Museums of 
Kenya and BiidLife Kenya. 

Editors: Leon Bennun, Joseph Oyugi and John Fanshawe 
Department of Ornithology, National Museums of Kenya, P O Box 40658, Nairobi 



Editorial 

Yes, it's World Birdwatch time again! Once more, on the weekend of 7-8 October 1995, 
BirdLife International is organising a global celebration of birds. This time the focus is on 
the habitats they live in, many of which are under severe threat. 

In Kenya we hope that birders will use the weekend as an excuse to dust off their 
binoculars and field guides, get out into the field and enjoy themselves — while at the 
same time collecting useful data on where our birds are and what they are doing. 

There's something for everyone in World Birdwatch '95: 

• Join in the National Birdmap. Whether you feel birding should be a solitary 
activity or a social event, whether you are a beginner or an expert, all you need is three 
spare hours on Saturday or Sunday (or both), somewhere to go birding and a set of 
instructions from the Ornithology Department. The idea is to collect data this weekend 
from as many places as possible for our computerised bird distribution database. You 
don't have to visit an exotic location, though — all records will be valuable. To take part, 
just send off the enclosed form and we will forward the details and a checklist. 

8 Join the Sunday Special Birdwalk in Nairobi, Kisumu or Mombasa. We will be 
finding out how many birds we can see in one morning in each of our major towns. Meet 
at 08:30 sharp on Sunday 8 October at the National Museum, Nairobi; Sunset Hotel, 
Kisumu; or Bamburi Nature Trail, Mombasa. The Kisumu walk will be led by Jeam 
Agutu, the Mombasa one by Marlene Reid and Lorna Depew. We'll do our best to 
provide transport for those who need it — if you have a vehicle and can help, that would 
be much appreciated. All are welcome for what should be a great morning out. 

• Join us on Saturday 7 October at the Louis Leakey Memorial Hall, National 
Museums of Kenya for a day of bird videos, a special guest lecture with slides, and other 
activities. Videos will start at 11 a.m.; the guest lecture will be at 3 p.m. (speaker to be 
announced). 

See you in October. In the meantime, good birding! 



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Please address all correspondence to: The Editors, Kenya Birds, Department of 
Ornithology, National Museums of Kenya, P O Box 40658 Nairobi, Kenya. 

Front cover illustration: Grey-capped Social Weavers Pseudonigrita arnaudi by Edwin 
Selempo. Typesetting and layout by BirdLife Kenya; printed by Omnia Printers, Nairobi. 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 



News from Kenya and abroad 

Department of Ornithology 

Grassland birds prefer grass 

The Department's study of two montane grassland species with restricted ranges, 
Sharpens Longclaw Macronyx sharpei and Jackson's Widowbird Euplectes 
jacksoni (see Kenya Birds 3(2)), is ongoing. Fieldwork on the Kinangop Plateau, 
supported by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, has now produced 
some preliminary results. 

Following a brief survey made on 31 October 1994, we have made four two- 
day field trips. During the first of these (29-30 March 1995), fifty-eight 4 ha plots 
were selected along a 60 km-long transect that runs from Kirima via North 
Kinangop town towards Njabini and back to the so-called 'fly-over'. They cover 
various types of montane grassland (41 plots), ranging from heavily grazed areas 
to less disturbed patches along small stream valleys, as well as shambas (9 plots) 
and woodlots (8 plots). By covering all the habitat types that are present, we hope 
to be able to produce a rough population estimate for the whole Kinangop Plateau 
by the end of the survey. During the next three trips, at the end of April, May and 
June, each plot was censused by three people walking in straight lines about 50 m 
apart. A total of 29 plots, all in grassland, produced Sharpe's Longclaw, totalling 
44 to 75 individuals on each trip. Despite being very preliminary, the data reveal 
that this species tends to be unevenly distributed over different types of grassland: 
it is less frequent in short, heavily grazed grassland (present in 5 of 10 plots); 
more often found in short grassland with tussocks (10 of 16 plots); and most 
frequent in medium to long grassland (14 of 14 plots). Apart from the type of 
grassland, the quality of the surrounding habitat also seems to have a significant 
effect on whether the species is present. For Jackson's Widowbirds we have less 
data — they were only observed in 7 out of 58 plots, so it is too early to see any 
pattern. 

So that we can produce a computerised map of the study area, the latitude- 
longitude co-ordinates of each plot have been determined with use of a Global 
Positioning System. This will help us interpret the spatial distribution of both 
species, and their movements within the study area. In parallel with the field 
study, the Department of Ornithology is gathering records of both species from 
around the country for its computerised database. Thanks to all those who have 
already sent their records to the Department. I would like to encourage other 
readers to do the same. — Luc Lens, P O Box 40658, Nairobi. 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994- 



Mount Ololokwe surveyed 

From 15-18 June 1995, a team of biologists from the National Museums of 
Kenya and the Peregrine Fund visited Mount Ololokwe, an impressive isolated 
massif north of Isiolo, Samburu District, to undertake a preliminary survey of its 
plants, reptiles and birds. The site is particularly well known for its variety of 
breeding raptors, including RiippelTs Vultures, Verreaux's Eagle, Martial Eagle 
and Peregrine Falcon (all seen by the survey) — and the Taita Falcon is also 
reputed to breed there. Indeed, over 60 species of raptor alone have been recorded 
at this site. The top of the mountain is still covered by Cedar forest, despite 
frequent burning by local farmers for cattle grazing, and we found some 
interesting birds living in these woods, such as Gambaga Flycatcher, Grey-headed 
Batis and Stripe-breasted Seed-eater. If funding applied for from the Belgian 
government is forthcoming, further fieldwork, including mist-netting of birds, 
may take place. — Luc Lens, P.O. Box 40658, Nairobi. 

Anyone for cormorants? 

Brooks Childress, our newest (and, by some stretch, also our oldest) student 
Research Associate, is under way with his study of the comparative ecology and 
status of the Great and Long-tailed Cormorants at Lakes Naivasha and Oloidien, a 
two-year project he is doing for his PhD at Leicester University. 

The primary aims of his study are better to understand recent population 
changes and breeding patterns of these top predators and to assess their potential 
as indicator species for the overall health of the lake ecosystem. The Long-tailed 
species, for example, suffered a 64% population decline from January 1993 to 
January 1995 and there are currently less than 100 individuals on both lakes 
Combined. Just as puzzling, the breeding pattern of the Great Cormorant of Lake 
Naivasha has been quite erratic, with fairly large breeding colonies in some years 
of high lake levels and very little breeding in other years. 

During his initial study period Brooks has spent most of his time documenting 
the daily behaviour patterns of the two species, with the help of a boat and engine 
kindly provided by Joan Root and Elsamere Conservation Centre, respectively. 

Next, he plans to study the foraging and breeding behaviour of these two 
species. The current scarcity of the Long-tailed Cormorant on the lake may 
indicate that it is breeding somewhere in the vicinity. If any of our readers is 
aware of Long-tailed or Great Cormorant breeding activity, past or present, in the 
Central or Rift Valley Provinces around Lakes Naivasha and Oloidien, Brooks 
would appreciate hearing from you at Box 1497, Naivasha. 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 



Call of the Yellowneck: A gamebird project update 

A typical morning in the Acacia scrublands on the group ranches in Loitokitok 
Division, Kajiado begins with the last howl of hyaenas, angry perhaps that the 
approaching day has denied them an opportunity to snatch a calf from the Maasai 
bomas. The Yellow-necked Spurfowl, the most abundant gamebird here, usually 
shuffles around in what resembles a clumsy waltz, tries a few wing beats and, 
maybe a little surprised that it is still alive after all, belts out a self-congratulatory 
'krooo....waak\ Which you would too, if most living forms you encounter on 
your daily schedule have only one idea on their minds — turning you into a meal. 

Gamebirds. A term that means different things to different people: families 
Phasianidae and Numididae to ornithologists, but under the present law four other 
families are included, the Anatidae, Scolopacidae, Pteroclidae and Columbidae — 
78 species in total. The difference would not matter if it did not reflect the 
challenge there is for developing a monitoring system for these birds, the goal of 
the gamebird project at the Department of Ornithology. 

In the last Kenya Birds issue, I reported on progress made on establishing a 
monitoring system on Mbirikani group ranch. This is an update. The period from 
November to date (June) has been closed to gamebird hunting in the southern part 
of the country. Efforts have therefore been directed at consolidating training for 
the field assistants employed by the ranch and initiating a similar system for 
Elangata Wuas, Kilonito and Torosei group ranches in the Central Division of 
Kajiado. 

The training has been in two main fields. First, to determine gamebird 
densities using line transects, point counts and the flush-and-count method. The 
last unfamiliar? It means just that — after a paper by Mentis and Bigalke, 1985. 
The field assistants have also been trained to monitor breeding condition by 
recording observations and timing of pairing. The reproductive organs of birds 
significantly increase in size when in breeding condition. The field assistants have 
thus been trained so that they can dissect a regular number of gamebird samples, 
obtained from hunters, and measuring the size of the gonads. This of course 
assumes the hunters will give up their birds for this purpose. A little public 
relations would help, and if that does not work, I explain, try another fine. Just say 
you will only take one tiny internal organ and give back the rest. 

The next phase involves expanding the same methods to five other group 
ranches in Loitokitok Division, in order to be able to compare them scientifically. 
The questions from the locals are similar everywhere — the most common one, 
"Don't you have anything to do, young man, following birds at early hours of the 
morning?" Of course I do have something to do, and that is to develop simple 
methods for monitoring gamebird populations and their breeding cycles. This will 
allow sustainable offtake limits to be set for hunting and rearing, I patiently try to 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 



explain at the village baraza or to the class 8 science class at the local primary 
school. "Might you know the equivalent of 'sustainable' in Maa?", the interpreter 
whispers to me. "I am counting them!", I declare, not sounding particularly 
convincing, but that is not the crucial issue. 

The crucial issue is that gamebird populations in the country are conserved, 
with benefits from the variety of ways they may be used going as far as possible 
to the communities that maintain them. These methods have worked well on 
Mbirikani, with minor modifications to be made; but they may not be applicable 
to all the areas where sport hunting and a relatively new use, gamebird rearing, is 
carried out. 

Discussions have been held with the KWS on possibilities of collaboration 
with the Department of Ornithology, particularly in identifying the data needs for 
all gamebird populations. The data would be collected by trained field assistants, 
supervised by KWS Community Service personnel in the respective areas. A 
concept paper on this is currently being developed. The African Wildlife 
Foundation continues to support this work financially and I am extremely grateful 
to them. 

Meanwhile, dusk on the group ranches is a bit of an anticlimax, another less 
triumphant 'kroo...waak' from the 'yellownecks' marks the end of a day, the 
beginning of another, maybe more fruitful one for the hyaenas. — Alfred Simiyu, 
P O Box 40658, Nairobi. 

Are sandgrouse shooting seasons wrong? 

From November 1994 to April 1994 I have been collating and analysing data 
from hunter John Sutton's diaries. Mr John Sutton, a tour operator and 
conservationist, has been keeping records on the size of gonads of sandgrouses he 
and his clients have shot over eleven years dating back to 1970. The size of 
gonads in birds is a good indicator of their breeding condition. The data cover two 
species of sandgrouse, the Black-faced Pterocles decoratus and Chestnut-bellied 
P. exustus. They are limited by the fact that, obviously, they were collected only 
during the open shooting seasons of the time. 

The proportions of birds breeding during particular periods of the year were 
compared for the current open and closed periods for hunting. This was done for 
three regions corresponding to the districts of Samburu, Kajiado and Isiolo. The 
effect of rainfall on the breeding seasons of these birds was also investigated. 

The results showed that the two species have two peak breeding seasons in a 
year, January to March and July to October. These correspond to the main dry 
periods. However, within the periods for which there are data, there was no 
obvious correlation between the proportions of birds breeding during any 
particular month and rainfall (measured in various ways). To tell whether the 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 



same sub-population of sandgrouse breeds twice a year, or whether there are 
different sub-populations breeding successively, requires a detailed study with 
intensive marking of different sub-populations. 

The results indicate that the set -shooting season for the Kajiado region, 
presently 1 July to 31 October, is totally mis-timed, since it coincides with a peak 
in sandgrouse breeding. This needs reviewing urgently. Further research to 
monitor the yearly variations of breeding populations is also needed. — Peter 
Njoroge, P O Box 40658, Nairobi. 

Bee-eaters spurn researchers 

Brent Burt, a doctoral student from the University of Arizona, USA, came to 
Kenya in May for a short collaborative research project with the Dept. of 
Ornithology. He is working on the evolution of cooperative breeding in the bee- 
eaters, using a phylogenetic approach. Little is known about the breeding habits 
of around a third of the world's 24 bee-eater species, hence the need for 
information from the field to complete the phylogeny. Several of these little- 
known species — the Carmine, Little, Cinnamon-chested, Somali, Blue-headed 
and Madagascar — breed in Kenya. 

Brent was joined for the study by Edward Waiyaki and Peter Njoroge both 
from Ornithology Dept., along with two undergraduate student volunteers from 
University of Arizona. On 20 May 95, the group left for Kakamega Forest in 
pursuit of the scarce and little-known Blue-headed Bee-eater. At Isecheno forest 
station, forest guide Titus Gutwa joined the team. The group struck lucky the next 
day, spotting a pair of the bee-eaters right behind the guest house. Over the course 
of the next few days two more pairs were sighted, but intensive searches failed to 
turn up more. Further efforts to search for the bee-eaters at Lukhusi, in the north- 
east, and in the Yala and Buyangu forest reserves (where they have been located 
in the past), were also unsuccessful. 

Continuous observations of the Isicheno birds failed to reveal their breeding 
or roosting sites. The group decided to collect general behavioural data on two 
pairs, focusing on foraging, habitat preference and activity time budget. 
Preliminary analysis suggested that the birds have a preference for dead and/or 
leafless trees in open and edge areas. They also had a tendency to forage from the 
canopy edge. The most intriguing behaviour we saw was one bird feeding another 
one five times on wasps, each time after beating the insect soundly against a 
branch. 

An unexpected finding was that the birds always seemed to be in pairs,, rather 
than the larger groups that would be expected if they were cooperative breeders. 
However, records of more than three birds have been reported and at 
approximately the same time of year. 



6 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 

Having failed to unravel the breeding habits of the Blue-headed Bee-eater the 
group switched to the Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater in Nairobi. These birds were 
much easier to locate, but they had already bred and groups were busy feeding 
fledglings. Better luck next time, perhaps... — Peter Njoroge, P O Box 40658, 
Nairobi. 

Welcome to new staff — goodbye to old 

The Department warmly welcomes Jane Wanjiku and Titus Gutwa, who have 
joined us as a Secretary and Curatorial Assistant, respectively. Meanwhile, Cecilia 
Gichuki, our Curator of Birds for over a decade and familiar to many Kenya Birds 
readers, has moved to the Museums' Wetland Programme in the Centre for 
Biodiversity. Fortunately Cecilia is not going far — the Wetlands Programme is 
housed in the same building — and we hope to be able to draw on her expertise in 
the future. 

Note of thanks 

Many thanks to Joan Root for her very generous donation of Volumes I and II of 
Birds of Eastern and North Eastern Africa by Mackworth-Praed and Grant and a 
copy of The Breeding Seasons of East African Birds by Brown and Britton. These 
books will be a great help in our field and laboratory work. 

Any old chairs? 

After years of extreme overcrowding, the Department finally has an extra office 
(at the base of the stairs 4n the new Natural Sciences building) that will help to 
reduce the congestion. Departmental Research Scientists have breathed a sigh of 
relief — but the drawback is that we don't have any furniture. If any of our 
readers have office furniture — desks, chairs, shelves or filing cabinets — that 
they are no longer using, please consider donating them to a good home. 

BirdLife Kenya 

Bird Day '95 

On 9 June 1995, BirdLife Kenya and the Ornithology Department, National 
Museums of Kenya organised a day of bird events at the National Museum, 
Nairobi. More than 200 people of all ages turned up to take part in birdwalks, try 
out origami (Japanese paper-folding), watch bird videos and listen to a range of 
invited speakers. Lecturers included Nathan Gichuki on conservation science and 
action, Don Turner on the history of ornithology in Kenya-, Simon Thomsett 
(complete with live eagle) on birds of prey, and Dave Richards on where to watch 
birds in Kenya. Bird sculptures, paintings and crafts were on display. The day, 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 



intended as a celebration of Kenya's 1,076 bird species, aimed to raise public 
awareness of our diverse birdlife and the threats that it faces. Many thanks to all 
who helped organise this event. 

A helping hand for heronries 

BirdLife Kenya has provided start-up funds for two projects focusing on colonial 
waterbird breeding sites near Lake Victoria. The first aims to create a community 
sanctuary for the Pink-backed Pelicans at Rakewa (see article, this issue). The 
second will set up a monitoring scheme for the Ahero-Buoye-Orongo heronries 
near Kisumu, with involvement of local people and students from Maseno 
University. These sites are extremely important for breeding waterbirds but are 
under increasing threat from human pressures. The work will be carried out as a 
collaboration between the Department of Ornithology, NMK, the Lake Victoria 
Wetlands Team, and Maseno School. 

Arabuko-Sokoke trophies 

Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is among the most important sites in Kenya for bird (and 
biodiversity) conservation. The forest has been much in the news this year — and 
for all the wrong reasons. A proposal in March 1995 from the District 
Development Committee to degazette a substantial chunk of Brachystegia 
woodland and mixed forest met opposition from many quarters. The East Africa 
Natural History Society and East African Wildlife Society publicised the 
conservation issues involved, and took part in a delegation to the forest to talk to 
local leaders. 

The threat of degazettement appears to have lifted — for the time being. 
However, many serious and potentially explosive problems remain unresolved, 
including issues connected with human-animal conflicts, access to water 
resources and land rights. These are big problems; but there is nothing to be lost 
by starting small. At the suggestion of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Management 
Team, a coordinating body for the management of the forest, BirdLife Kenya, the 
EANHS and other NGOs have donated a number of Arabuko-Sokoke trophies for 
schools. These will be given out at an open day for the forest to be held at Gede 
Forest Station on 30 September. Meanwhile the EANHS has set up a special 
committee to monitor Arabuko-Sokoke issues, and will be working through its 
Kipepeo Project to start public awareness and eco-tourism initiatives. 

Anyone interested in donating a schools trophy for the forest, please contact 
the Secretary, BirdLife Kenya, P O Box 44486, Nairobi. 

No let-up in forest degazettement 

Away from Arabuko-Sokoke, forest degazettement continues to be a worrying 
issue. In recent months, important tracts of indigenous forest have been excised in 



8 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 

South-west Mau, Kamiti, Kiambu and Kinari Forests. A recent study by IUCN 
shows that over the past five years the area added to the forest estate actually 
outweighs excisions. However, the additions have mostly been of small forests, or 
areas of low forest and thicket without substantial biodiversity. The excisions 
have mainly been of moist forests in areas of high potential for agriculture, which 
are among the nation's richest reservoirs of biodiversity. 

Kenya's indigenous forest estate is already so small and fragmented that its 
continued disappearance is a serious conservation problem. The shortage of 
agricultural land cannot be solved in the long-term by converting our forests to 
farms — indeed, by disrupting environmental cycles this will make problems 
worse. The IUCN report identifies the existing Forests Act as a major factor 
behind the rampant excisions going on at the moment. In contrast to the Wildlife 
Conservation and Management Act, which gives Parliament the responsibility of 
deciding whether to degazette a National Park, the Forests Act leaves the decision 
in the hands of one person — the Minister for Environment and Natural 
Resources. Although 28 days notice must be given of the intention to degazette, 
there is no mechanism for objections to be registered, and in practice this is a 
mere formality. Kenya's forests deserve better protection than the whim of a 
politician. 

Owls are a hit 

Many people who are not birdwatchers strongly dislike owls — in most traditions 
they are seen as at best mysterious, at worst harmful and evil creatures. So it was 
with mixed feelings that Jeam Agutu, BirdLife Kenya Associate Member, 
accepted an invitation to speak on 'Living with owls and other birds' at Maseno 
University. Members of the Zoology Department had been intrigued by Team's 
observations on Verreaux's Eagle Owls on the campus (see Kenya Birds 2(2): 34, 
January 1994). In the end more than 100 University staff and postgraduate 
students attended the seminar, and discussions continued at a reception 
afterwards. Completely converted to owls, the Department has asked for more 
lectures, and for Jeam to set up a birdwatching group for students. 

Important Bird Areas for Africa 

The Important Bird Areas programme is now officially under way in Kenya, with 
support from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in UK. Fieldwork 
started in January with surveys of a number of wetlands (see elsewhere in this 
issue). At the moment, preliminary lists of IB As are being put together. 

BirdLife International's IBA programme began ten years ago in Europe. The 
resulting publication, Important Bird Areas in Europe, has had a major impact on 
conservation planning across the continent — many of its recommendations have 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 9 

been adopted under national and European Union legislation. An IB A programme 
for the Middle East was completed in 1984 and is already proving to be as 
influential. Now it is Africa's turn. The overall result will be a detailed book 
giving an account of all the Globally Important Bird Areas identified on the 
continent. This is a huge task, given that 56 countries are involved and many 
cases little is known about their avifauna. 

Kenya is among a group of pioneer countries for the IBA programme in 
Africa — others include Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa. As elsewhere, the 
process is being coordinated by the national partner organisation — the East 
Africa Natural History Society, through its sub-committee BirdLife Kenya. Much 
of the technical work will be undertaken by the National Museums' Department 
of Ornithology. 

Identifying and describing Kenya's IB As is one part of the process — in many 
ways the easiest. At the same time, the programme is designed to build the 
capacity of the EANHS and the Department, for both bird conservation and bird 
research. There is no point in publishing a directory of IB As as a purely academic 
exercise, so the crucial third strand is translating the findings into action. The IBA 
programme in fact provides a neat complement to conservation planning that is 
already going on, such as the National Environment Action Plan. An Advisory 
Council, with representatives from key government bodies, is being set up to 
advise BirdLife Kenya on the project, particularly on how the results can most 
helpful. 

So what are IBAs, anyway? BirdLife's IBA Steering Committee for Africa 
has deliberated at length on the criteria that should be used to identify them. These 
have now been agreed, and there are four main categories of site. First, sites that 
are important for globally threatened species (such as the Sokoke Scops Owl). 
Second, sites that hold a suite of species with very small ranges (for example, the 
birds endemic to the central Kenyan highlands, such as Sharpe's Longclaw and 
Aberdares Cisticola). Third, sites with a representative set of species that are 
characteristic of a particular, distinct biome — for instance the dry bush country 
of north-east Kenya. Fourth, sites with particularly large concentrations of birds 
— flamingos at Lake Nakuru, for example. 

Within each of these categories, there are set thresholds (for instance, the 
number of restricted-range species, or the number of congregatory birds) for the 
selection of Globally Important Bird Areas. The Department of Ornithology is 
presently working with colleagues from Uganda and Tanzania on the challenging 
task of setting appropriate thresholds for Regionally Important Bird Areas. These 
will not appear in the continental directory, but we feel it is important to pin-point 
them nonetheless. IBAs, GIBAs, RIBAs — the acronyms may multiply 
confusingly, but the point is that having well-defined, agreed and objective 



10 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 

criteria at the different levels makes the whole exercise much more useful, and 
much more credible to decision-makers. 

In Kenya, the Department of Ornithology is presently reviewing the literature 
and putting together lists of sites using the different categories and criteria. These 
draft lists will be circulated for comment, and gaps in our knowledge identified. 
The next steps are additional, targeted field surveys, setting up an DBA database, 
and finally producing a book summarising the results. All going well, this should 
be published by March 1997. Parallel with all this, BirdLife Kenya will be 
working with the Advisory Council to incorporate the findings into national 
planning processes, and taking action on particular sites where appropriate. 

Many people will be involved in the IB A process, and anyone with interesting 
information on particular sites, or records of rare species, can contribute by 
making these available. Kenya Birds will be publishing regular updates to keep 
everyone informed of progress. We look forward to everyone's help with this 
exciting and important project — Leon Bennun, P O Box 40658, Nairobi. 

Kenya Wetlands Working Group 

Waterbird counts and surveys, January-March 1995: a summary 

The annual waterbird counts in January and July are organised by the Ornithology 
Department in collaboration with the Kenya Wetlands Working Group and the 
Kenya Wildlife Service. They form part of an Africa-wide waterbird census 
coordinated by the International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau 
(IWRB). These counts are presently funded by the Ramsar Convention Bureau 
an<£ involve training of volunteers to monitor wetlands. 

This year, the counts were expanded and surveys were made of several new 
sites, thanks to funding from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) 
received through BirdLife Kenya to support the Important Bird Areas (IBA) 
programme (see other articles, this issue). One of the criteria for Globally 
Important Bird Areas (GIBAs) is closely based on the Ramsar convention criteria 
for waterbirds: a site qualifies if it regularly supports more than 20,000 waterbirds 
or more than 1% of a species' biogeographic population. 

The early-year counts in 1995 (during the Northern winter) were quite 
extensive, covering more wetland sites than before. The counts stretched over a 
period of three months in total, from the beginning of January to the end of 
March. Counts and training of volunteers took place at the main Rift Valley lakes, 
and around wetlands in Amboseli National Park, Nairobi and Lake Victoria. Over 
120 volunteer birdwatchers took part overall. 

Meanwhile, a major effort was made in February to collect survey data on 
coastal sites — beaches, reefs, creeks, estuaries and salt works — from the border 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 1 1 

with Tanzania north to the Sabaki River mouth. The coastal survey was again a 
collaborative effort, involving six Ornithology Department staff, four staff of the 
Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) and two researchers 
from Pavia University, Italy. Counts were made on foot along beaches and reefs, 
while creeks were surveyed by boat at high tide to count concentrations of 
roosting waders. 

During March, five large dams along the upper Tana River were surveyed. 
Surprisingly, the waterbirds of these big man-made wetlands seem never to have 
been counted before. This time the institutions involved were the Department of 
Ornithology, Kenya Wildlife Service and the Fisheries Department. Logistical 
support was also provided by the Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KP&LC), 
the Tana and Athi River Development Authority (TARDA) and Mwea Trust. The 
survey was carried out by boat, involving three Ornithology Department staff and 
a coxswain from the Fisheries Department stationed at Masinga Dam. 

Additional data were received from volunteers who undertook waterbird 
counts on their own, either near their areas of residence or on personal safaris. We 
encourage interested birders to contribute waterbird count records, ideally for the 
months of January or July. 

Sites surveyed this year include the Rift Valley lakes: Bogoria, Nakuru, 
Naivasha (with Sonachi and Oloidien), Magadi and Elmentaita; wetlands around 
Nairobi: Dandora Sewage Works, Kayole Sewage, Manguo Floodplain, Nairobi 
Dam, Limuru Pond and Tigoni Dam; wetlands in Amboseli National Park: Lake 
Ol Tukai, Enkongo Narok Swamp and Longinye Swamp; sites around Lake 
Victoria: Rota, Tako River, Dunga, Kano Plains, Sondu-Miriu River mouth, 
Aneko, Pengle and Lake Simbi; and upper Tana River dams: Masinga, Kamburu, 
Gitaru, Kindaruma and Kiambere. Along the Kenyan Coast, the team counted 
creeks at Vanga, Funzi, Tudor, Port Reitz and Mida; beach stretches around 
Shimoni, Msambweni, Gazi, Funzi, Mtwapa, Tiwi, Kilifi, Watamu, Malindi and 
the Sabaki River mouth; and the Kensalt Works. Sites counted by individual 
volunteers include Nicoll, Oasis and Soy dams. 

Waterbird numbers 

The number of waterbirds counted in the entire survey total 903,311 — 787,857 
of these being flamingos. Almost all the flamingos were counted on the Rift 
Valley lakes, the majority (about 413,000) at Lake Nakuru. Waterbird numbers on 
the five upper Tana dams totalled 34,080, with the lion's share on Masinga (with 
27,869 birds). Other sites with waterbird numbers exceeding ten thousand include 
Bogoria (262,875), Elmenteita (124,403), Nakuru (413,968), Naivasha (11,549), 
Magadi (25,486), Amboseli (10,135 in all wetlands combined). The coastal 
survey covered 80% of the beach stretches from Vanga to the Sabaki River 



12 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 

mouth. The total number of birds counted in these sites including the creeks and 
the Kensalt works totaled 33,629 of 70 species. Terns made up the most numerous 
single group. — Oliver Nasirwa, P O Box 40658, Nairobi. 

Waterbird counts at Lake Victoria 

Surveys of waterbirds in some key wetlands around Lake Victoria were organised 
by the Lake Victoria Wetlands Team (LVWT). The surveys were conducted on 
11-12 and 25-26 February 1995, with assistance from the Ornithology 
Department and other volunteers (see article above). 

The first survey covered Dunga Beach, Kano plains, Tako River and Sondu- 
Miriu. A team of nine counters took part. Notable observations included a male 
Pygmy Goose at Sondu-Miriu, and (less happily) the uncontrolled sewage flow 
and wastes at Dunga Beach. 

The second survey involved seven counters. The area covered included Simbi, 
Pengle, Aneko the breeding site for Pink-backed Pelican at Rakewa. Two fully 
fledged young of pelicans and four of Black-headed Heron were observed, and 
sixteen nests of sticks and twigs counted. — Joseph Oyugi, P O Box 40658, 
Nairobi. 

Waterbird counts at the Kenya coast 

Waterbirds along the Kenya coast were surveyed from 2-25 February 1995. Six 
Ornithology Department staff, four staff members from Kenya Marine and 
Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) and two researchers from Pavia University, 
Italy were involved in the survey. The aim was to cover as much of the Kenya 
coastline as possible from Vanga in the south, north to the Sabaki River mouth, 
surveying all wetland bird species. 

For practical reasons two methods were used: (1) 'beach counts' on the 
beaches and reefs at low tide while birds were feeding, and (2) counts of roosting 
birds in the creeks at high tide from a boat. It was impractical to cover the whole 
c. 220 km section of coast in just three weeks, but as much as possible was 
sampled. Despite the lack of prior reconnaissance to find access routes for certain 
sections of coastline, over 80% was covered. 

The overall impression was of good numbers of birds along much of the 
coastline. Some areas, though, held fewer birds than expected, particularly the 
southern beaches. The total counted was 33,629 of 70 species, the bulk of which 
were terns. 

Highlights included a flock of 200+ Crab Plovers with several hundred other 
waders and terns in a roost site just north of the Tanzanian border at Vanga; 
concentrations of Turnstone along the rocky beaches south of Kilifi; roosts of 
several hundred Sooty Gulls and terns just north of Watamu; and 150+ Caspian 



Keny a Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 13 

Terns on the salt works north of Malindi at Gongoni. At the Sabaki River we 
recorded up to 20 wintering Broad-billed Sandpipers, a male Caspian Plover in 
full breeding plumage, an Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus (only the fourth 
record for Kenya) and a new species for East Africa, none other than a Northern 
Lapwing Vanellus vanellusl — Oliver Nasirwa, Colin Jackson, Luc Lens, Joseph 
Oyugi, Edward Waiyaki, P O Box 40658, Nairobi; Jan Seys, P O Box 81651, 
Mombasa. 

Waterbirds on the Upper Tana River dams 

Waterbirds on the five large dams on the upper Tana River (Masinga, Kiambere, 
Kamburu, Kindaruma and Gitaru) were surveyed from 16-27 March 1995, 
following an earlier reconnaisance trip. A boat, without which the survey would 
have been impossible, was kindly lent free of charge by the Kenya Wildlife 
Service, and a coxswain joined us from the Fisheries Dept. base on Kenya's 
largest dam, Masinga. 

Numbers of birds were much higher than we had expected. Of particular 
interest were around 300 African Darters, a species that is seriously threatened in 
Kenya by gill-net fishing. Indeed we found three Darters tangled and trapped in 
fishing net or string that had been discarded in the dams. 

Large numbers of cormorants were present on most dams including three 
breeding colonies. Herons were very abundant, in particular Great White Egrets 
and Green-backed Herons. Apart from Greenshank and Common Sandpiper, 
waders were only present in any numbers on Masinga Dam. The same was true of 
duck (both species of Whistling Ducks on Masinga). We saw very few Palaearctic 
duck, presumably due to the late date of the survey (we recorded only six 
Garganey). (Unfortunately, vehicle problems had delayed the start of the survey 
by almost two weeks.). Other records of interest were two to three Ospreys on 
each of the larger dams and Pied Kingfishers in almost every corner — hundreds 
in all. — Oliver Nasirwa, Colin Jackson & Patrick Gichuki, P O Box 40658, 
Nairobi. 

Lake Naivasha — Kenya's second Ramsar site 

Kenya acceded to the Ramsar Convention in 1990 and designated Lake Nakuru as 
its first Wetland of International Importance. Nakuru is often host to more than a 
million Lesser Flamingos as well as providing habitats for many other wetland 
birds and large mammals. Lake Nakuru is within a National Park which is famous 
for the diversity of its wildlife — its visitors exceed 100,000 each year. The 
Kenya Wildlife Service manages the Ramsar site, both because it is the 
organisation responsible for National Parks and because it is the custodian of the 
Ramsar Convention in Kenya. 



14 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 

Lake Naivasha is a freshwater lake in Kenya's Rift Valley, less than 50 km 
from Lake Nakuru. It is unique in being fresh — where other lakes on the floor of 
the Rift Valley become saline — and in having a great diversity of wetland plants 
and animals, especially waterbirds. Unlike Nakuru, it has no protected status and 
is surrounded by private land where most inhabitants are farmers, many of them 
growing flowers for export while using lake waters for irrigation. Lake Naivasha 
qualifies for listing as a Wetland of International Importance under most of the 
Ramsar criteria relating to ecosystems and under two of those relating to 
waterbirds: it regularly has more than 20,000 waterbirds (75 species have been 
consistently recorded) and is host to more than one percent of the world 
population of the Maccoa Duck. Its wetland plants are legion and include the 
tallest stand of papyrus for such an altitude (almost 2,000 m a.s.l.) where culms 
exceed five metres in height. Between (and on) the farms there are many species 
of large mammals associated with wetlands — including hippos and waterbuck 
— and the lake provides drinking water for a great variety of wildlife and 
livestock from its dry hinterland. It has a commercial fishery, a tourist industry, a 
geothermal power plant nearby and the town of Naivasha at its edge. 

Naivasha has a unique grouping of its landowners who have been charged 
under law with the management of the riparian land associated with the lake. The 
Lake Naivasha Riparian Owners Association (LNROA) was formed to allow 
agriculture to continue and develop while simultaneously ensuring the provision 
of fish and other wetland products to those who needed them. In short, a process 
to ensure Wise Wetland Use! 

The LNROA together with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and with 
backup from the IUCN Wetlands Programme, decided that the designation of the 
lake and associated wetlands as a Ramsar site would fulfil their needs while 
ensuring water and biodiversity for posterity. At a full meeting of the Association 
early in 1995, this idea was supported unanimously and the process of designation 
began in earnest. The site has been delineated (approximately 30,000 ha, 
including some adjacent sodic wetlands, a floodplain and delta as well as many 
farms and houses) and described and the designation has been supported by the 
Government of Kenya through KWS. On 10 April the site was added to the 
Ramsar list of Wetlands of International Importance. But the process does not end 
there as there is need for a management arrangement and a management plan. 
Both of these are being developed by a steering committee which is hosted by 
LNROA and includes KWS, IUCN and other key players in the utilisation and 
conservation of the lake. A draft management plan for sustainable utilisation has 
been produced and should be approved by the stakeholders and government 
authorities in the near future. The Ramsar site is likely to be managed by the 
LNROA together with appropriate government institutions and representatives of 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 15 

wetland users. This will then make Naivasha the first Ramsar site in Africa to be 
sited within private land and to be managed by its inhabitants! — Geoffrey 
Howard, P O Box 68200, Nairobi. 

[Adapted from the IUCN Wetlands Programme newsletter, no. 11, June 1995. J 

International 

For waterbirds, c'est Bonn 

European, African and Middle Eastern nations have reached a historic agreement 
on the conservation of the migratory waterbirds that they share. 

Representatives from over 60 countries signed the African-Eurasian 
Migratory Waterbirds Agreement in Den Haag, Netherlands, on Friday 16 June. 

The Agreement, created under the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species, 
aims to ensure that coordinated measures are taken to maintain and restore 
populations of birds such as storks, swans, geese and ducks. The signatories 
agreed to cooperate in giving legal protection to the birds, identifying and 
protecting the sites and habitats they use, and combating threats to them. 

The treaty does allow hunting, however, except of those species at extreme 
risk because of factors such as low numbers, declines or habitat threats. Even a 
few of these high-risk birds, such as Red-crested Pochard, Greenland White- 
fronted Goose and Goldeneye, may be hunted for traditional reasons in parts of 
Europe, and Glossy Ibis, African Spoonbill and White-backed Duck in parts of 
Africa. 

Johanna Winkelman of BirdLife International said: 'This agreement is the 
first of its kind, and will help to protect migratory birds, from the Arctic to 
southern Africa. However, BirdLife is worried that the agreement allows some 
hunting of birds which have an unfavourable or uncertain conservation status." 

Most controversially, the hunting of some species will be permitted while they 
are breeding. According to BirdLife International, this is a backward step. "Some 
birds were added to the list of huntable species with inadequate justification," said 
Winkelman. "Nonetheless, the agreement offers a real prospect of a brighter 
future for our migratory birds". 

BirdLife hopes that the agreement will come into force before the end of the 
century. In the meantime, states can begin to implement the agreement by 
drawing up species action plans (one of the main provisions of the agreement) and 
working towards the phasing out of toxic lead shot, still widely used by hunters. 



16 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 

Spix's fixed — lone male macaw gets mate 

Conservationists who have been 'match-making' between two parrots, in an 
attempt to save the world's rarest bird from extinction, are delighted to find that 
their couple seem to have fallen for each other! 

Until earlier this year, just a single Spix's Macaw - a male - remained in the 
wild, in forest in Brazil. The lone male was pursing a sad, inevitably fruitless 
relationship with a female Green- winged Macaw, a closely related but completely 
separate species. 

Around 30 Spix's Macaws exist in captivity. In March, after extensive 
research to ensure the two would be well-suited, a female was released to join the 
male, in the hope that they would pair-up and breed. 

Although it has taken a while, the two now seem to have fallen for each other, 
and are almost inseparable. The rejected Green- winged Macaw generally joins the 
couple during the day, but leaves them in the evening, so they can spend the night 
alone together. 

While it is still early days, the hope is that the couple will reproduce 
successfully in the breeding season later this year. They are currently being 
observed by biologists around the clock to monitor their behaviour and guard 
them from poachers. 

The match-making is part of a programme to save Spix's Macaw, the world's 
rarest bird, from extinction, being run by an International Committee led by the 
Brazilian wildlife authorities, IBAMA. Spix's Macaw once occurred in gallery 
riverine forest in north-east Brazil. Loss of its forest habitat together with capture 
for the wild bird trade has- reduced the species to a single individual in the wild. 
The sex of the remaining wild bird was confirmed by DNA sequencing of a 
feather, performed by Dr Richard Griffiths at Oxford University. 

Birding at... Olorgesailie Prehistoric Site 

Leon Bennun 
P O Box 40658, Nairobi 

If you are unlucky enough to live in Nairobi, the cold months in the middle of the 
year can often seem particularly dreary. Day after day of grey skies, dull drizzle 
and dismal temperatures, enough to lower any birder's spirits. The few feathered 
objects that are hardy enough to be out and about can scarcely be glimpsed 
through the gloom. 

What better time to head south to warmer surroundings? Olorgesailie 
Prehistoric Site is only an hour and a bit away but it feels like a different world; a 
landscape of dust, heat, thorn and the Rift Valley's wild fractured beauty. 
Indisputably a change from the Arboretum on a murky July morning. 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 



17 




Red and Yellow Barbets — Edwin Selempo 



Landscapes 

The trip to Olorgesailie takes you down the shoulder of the rift, on what must be 
one of the finest short drives anywhere. Magadi Road rolls south through the 
bustling sprawl of Ongata Rongai and Kiserian before breaking out into green 
open country on the slopes of the Ngong Hills. Then it sweeps round the edge of 
the hills and the Rift Valley appears with breathtaking grandeur. Ancient 
volcanoes litter the landscape: Suswa off in the distance, 01 Doinyo Esakut 
immediately below — the road can be seen looping ever downwards across its 
flanks — and away to the south, the impressive eroded bulk of Mt Olorgesailie 
itself, brooding over the valley floor. 



18 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1 994 




Olorgesailie Prehistoric Site and environs — Map by Dennis Milewa 



The descent is rapid and ecological zones succeed one another alarmingly 
fast. Dwarf Acacia drepanolobium shrubland gives way to taller woodland, then 
to dense thickets of the wait-a-bit thorn, Acacia mellifera. The road plunges down 
a last rocky ridge and suddenly flattens out on the floor of the valley. At just 1,000 
m, the temperature here is perceptibly warmer. This area around the little town of 
Oltepesi (also known as Tinga) was originally wooded grassland. Heavy grazing 
and felling of trees have turned it into a dusty plain scattered with a few Acacia 
tortilis. 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 19 

The road crosses the seasonal Engeju Esiteti river over a fine modern bridge 
(which has eliminated the often hair-raising fordings of earlier years), then climbs 
a little ridge to the Olorgesailie turn-off on the left. The site is reached down an 
appallingly dusty stretch of track, but it is a distance of only 2 km. 

Walks around the site 

Olorgesailie protects an excavation of the Acheulian stone tool culture, perhaps 
half a million years old. If you happen to be a devotee of hand axes and other 
prehistoric artefacts, there is a great deal to see in the tidy small Museum and the 
site displays. As a birder, however, you are better advised to look elsewhere. If 
you have managed to arrive early in the day, you might start by walking down 
towards the seasonal Engeju Esiteti River. 

A footpath leading down from the Museum skirts the main excavations, drops 
down the ridge and eventually circles round past the lower level exhibits and back 
to the main site. This is an easy and worthwhile walk, and will produce open- 
country species such as Fawn-coloured Lark (look for the big white supercilium) 
and Ashy Cisticola (listen for the loud warbling song). Rufous-crowned or Lilac- 
breasted Rollers are often in evidence. To reach the river itself, continue straight 
across country when the path turns to your left. The thick bush on the river banks 
can be difficult to walk through, but sit under one of the big, shady Acacia tortilis 
and look and listen for birds. Spotted-flanked Barbets, White-bellied Go-away 
Birds and the pretty little Emerald-spotted Wood Dove are all common here, and 
Green Wood Hoopoe and the beautiful White-throated Bee-eater are often seen. 
The wooded plain across the river is a good area to see Pale Chanting Goshawk, 
Blue-naped Mousebird, Heuglin's Courser, Banded Parisoma, Red-fronted 
Warbler and Yellow-bellied Eremomela. A little further along to the north, the 
rocky ridge just beyond the lower-level excavation is home to Cinnamon-breasted 
Rock Bunting, Slate-coloured Boubou, Red-fronted Barbet, Namaqua Dove and 
many others. 

Taking it easy 

More sedentary birders, or those overcome by the heat, need not worry. Most of 
Olorgesailie's birds can be seen at the main site itself, often without stirring from 
the welcome shade of one of the verandas. Bird baths outside the main Museum 
and the picnic banda attract a steady stream of visitors, especially in the depths of 
the dry season. The variety of small seed-eating birds is particularly impressive: 
species you are likely to see include Blue-capped Cordon-bleu, Purple Grenadier, 
Black-cheeked Waxbill, Green-winged Pytilia, Grosbeak and White-bellied 
Canaries, Cut-throat, Grey-headed Silverbill, Chestnut Sparrow and Yellow- 
spotted Petronia. Violet-backed, Beautiful and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds flit about, 
the males flashing their dazzling metallic colours in the sunlight. The Scarlet- 



20 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 



chested have often nested in the site buildings. Red-and- Yellow Barbets, looking 
quite unbelievably garish, hop confidingly up to one's chair and wait for 
handouts. Grey-capped Social Weavers, tame and charming little birds, are also 
abundant and obvious (see the article elsewhere in this issue). 

Around the picnic site look out for the Spotted Morning Thrush, stepping 
shyly from the surrounding thickets. It has a marvellous rich song at dawn. Keep 
an eye open along the fence-line for its smaller and less musical relative, the 
White-browed Scrub Robin. A loud, sudden click and whistle is likely to be a pair 
of Slate-coloured Boubous, skulking in the depths of an acacia thicket. This 
species has an amazing repertoire of sounds, ranging from harsh grating rasps to 
melodious gong-like notes. 

The hot middle hours of the day are a sleepy time for both birdwatchers and 
birds. Mourning Doves coo lugubriously from the big trees, where White-bellied 




Lilac-breasted Rollers — Bryan Hanlon 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 21 

Go-away Birds sway and doze. Evening brings the Grey-capped Social Weavers 
noisily back to their nests; they call and preen outside before slipping in quietly to 
roost as the light fades, accompanied by a brief, thrilling burst of song from the 
Spotted Morning Thrush. As dusk thickens, Slender-tailed Nightjars start up all 
around, pop-pop-popping like distant generators, perhaps accompanied by the 
sad, eerie whistle of a Two-banded Courser. There are no electric lights at or 
around Olorgesailie, and with or without a moon the nights are magical. Hyenas 
whoop in the distance, and lions are often around; their roars, resounding from the 
ridges, can seem to be right inside one's tent. In the moonlit early hours sleepers 
in the bandas may be awakened by an odd and particular noise: the clicking knee- 
joints of a big male eland, approaching to browse on the Desert Roses outside the 
window. 

After the rains... 

The face of Olorgesailie changes dramatically from season to season. Once the 
rains begin, usually in late March or early April, the site is buzzing with life and 
vibrant with bird-song. The first showers set off a frenzy of nest-building among 
the weavers. Masked Weavers gather in big noisy colonies to build their fine-grass 
nests, each with a characteristic little spout at the base. The round nests of the 
Vitelline Masked Weavers are more scattered, in groups of three or four, and built 
out of broad green grass blades. In years of good rain, Cardinal Queleas build 
their neatly woven litde nests in patches of long, dense grass. Most large trees 
contain a cluster of the untidy straw nests of the Grey-capped Social Weavers, 
used year-round but renovated each wet season. 

As the breeding season progresses, the weavers* colonies attract unwelcome 
visitors: the Didric Cuckoo, persistent and crafty, intent on stealing an egg and 
substituting its own; the Boomslang, which systematically makes its murderous 
rounds from tree to tree; and the Gabar Goshawk and Grey Hornbill, both 
specialists in robbery with violence. 

Around and about 

If you have a little more time to spend, exploring the surrounding area can be 
rewarding. The rocky scarps north-west of the site are home to Lanners and 
Kestrels. White-throated Bee-eaters are known to breed in the diatomite cliffs to 
the west, and in the dry season the permanent pools of water in the Olkeju Ngiro 
river gorge are magnets not only for livestock but for doves, sandgrouse and other 
birds. Less than an hour's drive to the south is Lake Magadi, with extraordinary 
scenery and spectacular waterbirds. For the really adventurous, Mt Olorgesailie 
makes an exciting climb. 



22 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 

How to get there 

Olorgesailie is easily accessible by private or public means; a four-wheel drive 
vehicle is not necessary. 

If you are driving: from the city centre take the Langata Road past the KWS 
headquarters, then turn left on Magadi Road at the corner of the National Park. 
Alternatively, take Ngong Road as far as Ngong Town, then turn left and you will 
join the Magadi Road at Kiserian. If you are continuing to Magadi, remember that 
fuel is not always available there. 

The Akamba Bus Company runs a twice-daily service from Nairobi to 
Magadi, and back. If you leave the bus at the Olorgesailie turn-off it is an easy 
walk to the site. 

Where to stay 

There are four thatched bandas at the site, providing comfortable but basic 
accommodation. Beds and mattresses are provided; you need to bring your own 
bedding and food. Charges are presently KSh 400/= per night, per banda; book 
through the Director's office, National Museums of Kenya. Paraffin lamps can be 
rented for a small extra fee. There is also a pleasant campsite, with fireplace, 
under a group of big Acacia tortilia trees. 

Water is often available but to be on the safe side bring your own, at least 
enough for drinking — the supply cannot be guaranteed. 

EANHS members are admitted to the site free, on production of a valid 
membership card; others will need to pay an entrance fee. This applies even if you 
are not visiting the excavations. 

Records and Notes 



Records compiled by Joseph Oyugi 

This section exists for the rapid publication of interesting observations, and 
contributions are welcomed. If you are sending in records for Kenya Birds, please 
consider the following guidelines. For breeding records, send in cases of confirmed 
breeding, i.e. birds incubating eggs or feeding nestlings/fledglings. Records for 
confirmed breeding are useful for ALL species, even the most common ones; records of 
nest-building, courtship etc. are only needed for rare species or ones where there are 
few breeding records. Please try to fill in a nest-record card at the same time. Much 
more detail can be recorded on a card, and if your record can be added to the card 
collection and our computer database then it is of permanent value. Cards can be 
obtained free of charge from the EANHS Nest Record Scheme Organiser (see back 
page). A report listing records submitted to the scheme is published every second year 
in the Annual Bird Report of Scopus. 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 23 

For other records of Afrotropical/oceanic and Palaearctic birds, please send in any 
sightings and notes that you think are of interest. The Editors will select records for 
publication according to the space available. For all records, including breeding 
records, please be precise as possible about dates and locations. If you have sightings 
from places not easily found on the map, please take the trouble to give the latitude and 
longitude of the site to as much precision as you can (preferably the nearest second of 
arc or better). This will allow us to use these records in the Ornithology Department's 
computerised database. 

Supporting details are always welcome for unusual records and will improve the 
chances of publication. Records of certain species are requested for inclusion in the 
Scopus Annual Bird Report (the third issue of Scopus each year). These should be sent 
to Don Turner (P O Box 48019, Nairobi), who can also supply information on which 
records are required. For particularly unusual sightings supporting details (i.e. field 
notes, photographs etc.) will be needed for scrutiny by the OS-c Rarities Committee. 

Key to records 

New atlas square records are indicated in square, brackets. Codes are: pres, present (first 
record); post pres, present (first post- 1970 record); prob, probably breeding; conf, 
confirmed breeding; post conf, confirmed breeding (first since 1970); for example, 
[pres, conf 25B] indicates that the species is present and confirmed as breeding in 
square 25B. 

Where scientific names are not stated here (and elsewhere in Kenya Birds) the 
English names follow Britton (ed.) 1980, Birds of East Africa. 

Breeding records 

Little Grebe: One juv, Kayole sewage pond 4/1/95 KN. Pink-backed Pelican: Two 

fully fledged young sitting in a nest, Rakewa, Oyugis 26/2/95 CO, JOO, JOl, WOl & 
PO; more than one hundred nests, some adults feeding young in nest and others 
incubating, Rakewa, Oyugis 9/7/95 JOO. Greater Cormorant: Many fully grown juvs 
and nestlings being fed by adults, off Lake Naivasha Hotel Jetty, Lake Naivasha 18/1/92 
ON, JH, FN, WO & AD; (conf 49A): Two young fed by adult, Soy Village, Eldoret 10/ 
3/95 BC. Darter (conf 63D): Several nests and young, Upper Tana 8/3/95 CJ & ON. 
Black-headed Heron (conf 60D): Two fully fledged young sitting in nests and one 
standing on a branch, Rakewa, Oyugis 26/2/95 CO, JOO, JOl, WOl & PO; (conf 62D): 
Seventeen individuals sitting in nests, Murungaru, North Kinangop 29/3/95 JOO, LL, 
MM & CJ; (conf 61A): Adult feeding frog to half-grown young, Chagaik Dam, Kericho 
1/2/94 AJB. Cattle Egret: 212 birds in nests, Murungaru, North Kinangop 29/3/95 LL, 
JOO, MM & CJ. Abdim's Stork: One fledgling in a nest, Maseno 24/2-1/4/93 JA. 
Hadada: Adult feeding nestling, Impala Sanctuary, Kisumu 20/4/95 MM. White-faced 
Whistling Duck: Pairs with 20, 10 and 5 ducklings, single bird with 10 ducklings, 
Dandora sewage treatment ponds 4/1/95 WMBw; pair with two ducklings diving, dam, 
Nairobi National Park 8/3/95 DB. Egyptian Goose: Six goslings, Dandora sewage 
treatment pond 4/1/95 KN et al.; adult with ten goslings, Lake Oloiden, Naivasha 28/1/ 
95 JOO & BC; adult with ten goslings, Yacht Club, Lake Naivasha 29/1/95 JOO; adult 



24 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1 994 

with seven goslings, Lake Oloiden 28/6/95 CB. Yellow-billed Duck: An adult with 
about twelve ducklings, off New Fisheries Jetty, Lake Naivasha 29/1/95 FN, JW & EM; 
four ducklings, Loldia farm, Naivasha 22/2/95 JW. African White-backed Vulture: 
Young in the nest, two adults sitting by, Athi River, Hopcraft Ranch 15/2/95 PN. Great 
Sparrowhawk: Two fledglings in a nest, Kiambere Road, Nairobi 6/11-29/12/94 FN; 
juv begging from adult, Nairobi, Arboretum 21/5/95 CJ. Tawny Eagle: Adult sitting in 
nest, Nairobi National Park 5/7/95 WMBw. Verreaux's Eagle: One young, Soysambu 
Ranch 16/3/95 ES & WO. Long-crested Eagle (post prob 63C): A pair mating, Wajee 
Camp, Mihuti 24/6/95 DM; adult incubating, L. Nakuru National Park 23/2/95 JW. Fish 
Eagle: Adult incubating, Ndere Island, Kisumu 24/4/95 MM; juv with two adults, 
Shimoni 15/2/95 JS & JW1. Crested Francolin (conf 75D): Three adults with one 
chick, Kajiado 5/5/95 NS. Helmeted Guineafowl: Five chicks and three adults, Kajiado 
16/4/95 NS; five chicks with two adults, Oltepesi, Kajiado 15/6/95 AS. Kenya Crested 
Guineafowl: Five chicks on the road, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest 20/5/95 LD; seven 
chicks with three adults, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest 29/5/95; six chicks with five adults, 
Arabuko-Sokoke Forest 20/5/95 LD. Crowned Crane: A pair with two half-grown 
young, Chelimo Estate, Kericho 15/12/94 AJB et al.; a pair with two very small chicks, 
Nairobi National Park 13/2/95 KLW; one young, half adult size, near the adults, 
Loresho Ridge, Nairobi 19/4/95 FN; one young feeding with two adults, Nairobi 
National Park 11/2-8/3/95 DB. Purple Gallinule: One fully-fledged young on floating 
leaf, and another with adult returning to nest, Splash, Nairobi 31/1/95 DR. Red- 
knobbed Coot: Five young swimming with two adults, Soy, Eldoret 14/5/95 DB. Kori 
Bustard: Two eggs in a nest, Singiraini, Magadi 8/3/95 NS. Kittlitz's Sandplover: 
One young probably 3-5 days out of nest, Lake Nakuru 17/7/94 CJ; two downy young, 
Soysambu Ranch 30/3/95 KN. Blacksmith Plover: Incubating four eggs, Lake Nakuru 
17/7/94 CJ. Crowned Plover: Two juvs, Soysambu Ranch 16/3/95 KN; two juvs 
feeding, Loldia farm, Naivasha 4/3/95 JW; incubating two eggs, Loldia farm, Naivasha 
23/2/95 JW. Black- winged Plover (post conf 62D): Adult incubating three eggs, South 
Kinangop 27/6/95 CJ. Wattled Plover (conf 74C): Adult incubating (photographed), 
Musiara Road, Masai Mara 25/12/88 ND & LD (see article, this issue). Spur-winged 
Plover: Downy young sitting in a depression on the ground, Dandora sewage ponds, 
Nairobi 4//1/95 ON. Senegal Plover: Adult with juv, Shimba Hills 29/5/95 LL & JS. 
Spotted Thicknee: Incubating two eggs, Nairobi National Park 16/3/95 FN. Speckled 
Pigeon: Incubating, Lake Nakuru National Park 23/2/95 JW. Red-eyed Dove: Nest 
with two eggs, preyed on by Gabar Goshawk, Naivasha 29/31/1/95 CR. Ring-necked 
Dove: Two fledglings leaving nest, Sinya Omelok, Kajiado 15/6/95 AS & CB. 
Laughing Dove: Incubating two eggs, later two young in nest, Loldia Farm, Naivasha 
11/2-1/3/95 JW; nest with two eggs, Naivasha 3-5/2/95 CR. Levaillant's Cuckoo 
(conf 62C): Laid in nest of Olive Thrush;, juv successfully fledged, South Lake Road, 
Naivasha, early 9/94-8/10/94 AV. Black Cuckoo: Juv being fed by Tropical Boubou, 
Naivasha 21/1-26/2/95 CR. Didric Cuckoo: Juv being fed by Black-headed Weaver, 
Voi Safari Lodge 14/5/95 JS. Barn Owl: Two owlets begging after dusk, Lamu 
Museum roof, late March and early April 1995 MJ. Spotted Eagle Owl: One juv with 
two adults, Hell's Gate National Park 22/2/95 MV. Verreaux's Eagle Owl: Two juvs, 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 25 

Loldia Farm, Naivasha 5/3/95 JW. Sokoke Scops Owl: Two immature birds with two 
adults, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest 29/1/95, DN & JS. Montane Nightjar (conf 62A): 
Adult female incubating, later both adults feeding young at night, Soysambu 26/3 & 19/ 
4/95 KN & JMN. Dusky Nightjar: Nest with two chicks, Soysambu, Elmenteita 6/5/95 
MACC. Speckled Mousebird: Nest with two chicks, both fledged, Naivasha 21/2/95 
CR; one juv, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi 21/6/95 CJ; three juvs fed by adults, 
Loldia Farn, Naivasha 10/5/95 JW. Blue-naped Mousebird: Two juvs, Loldia Farm, 
Naivasha 24/2/95 JW. Malachite Kingfisher: Adult carrying food near nest, Elsamere, 
Naivasha 29/6/95 CB. Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater: Two juvs, Lake Nakuru National 
Park 1/3/95 JW. Green Wood Hoopoe: One juv, Loldia farm, Naivasha 1/3/95 JW; one 
juv fed by adults, Naivasha 2 & 5/3/95 CR. Grey Hornbill: One juv, Loldia Farm, 
Naivasha 22/2/95 JW; adult carrying food near nest, Loldia farm, Naivasha 24/2/95 JW. 
Ground Hornbill: Hole nest in large branching tree, Kwanza, Kitale 8/6/95 MACC. 
Red-fronted Barbet: Nest hole in trunk of large tree, Laikipia 21/5/95 SS. White- 
headed Barbet (conf 48D): Hole nest in a Nandi Flame tree, later two white eggs found 
broken after the tree was cut down, Maseno 20/12/92-3/1/93 JA. Eastern Honeyguide: 
One juv near pair of Montane White-eyes, Wasaa Conservation Centre, Nairobi 24/5/95 
FN. Uganda Spotted Woodpecker (pres, prob 61A): Male and female visiting nesting 
hole regularly, hissing noises within the hole, Chagaik estate 1/1/95 AJB et al. Fischer's 
Sparrow Lark (post conf 75D): Two nestlings, Kajiado 27/4/95 NS. Striped Swallow: 
Hail stones tore the bottom out of the nest, three eggs shattered on the windowsill and 
roof below, Chagaik Estate, Kericho 14/5/94 AJB; adult entering nest, Highridge, 
Nairobi 20/5/95 CB. Angola Swallow (post conf 62D): Adult feeding two juvs, South 
Kinangop 28/6/95 CJ. Wire-tailed Swallow (post conf 63C): Adult carrying food near 
nest, Mukurweini, Muhuti 2/7/95 DM. African Rock Martin: Nest with three eggs, 
Langata, Nairobi 9/3/95 DB. Sand Martin: Two juvs, Loldia Farm, Naivasha 26/2/95 
JW. Black-headed Oriole: Building nest, Loldia farm, Naivasha 1-5/6/95 JW. Red- 
throated Tit (conf 75D): Three juvs, Olelepos 25/6/95 CJ. Arrow-marked Babbler: 
Two juvs, Soysambu Ranch 15/6/95 KN. Placid Greenbul: One juv wing- shivering, 
Arboretum, Nairobi 5/4/95 FN. Common Bulbul: One fledgling fed by adult, 
Kiambere road, Nairobi Hill 15/12/94 FN; one young, Soysambu Ranch 30/4/95 KN; 
one young, Loldia Farm, Naivasha 5/3/95 JW. RuppelTs Robin Chat: Adult feeding 
juv, later juv feeding alone, Kiambere Road, Nairobi Hill 3/12/94 FN. White-starred 
Forest Robin: Juv feeding independently, Nairobi, Arboretum 21/5/95 CJ. Northern 
Olive Thrush: One juv, Kiambere Road, Nairobi Hill late 12/94 FN. Lesser Swamp 
Warbler: Nest with five chicks, Elsamere, Naivasha 28/6/95 CB. Black-collared 
Apalis: Juv fed by adult, Langata Bird Sanctuary, Nairobi 4/6/95 WMBw. White-eyed 
Slaty Flycatcher: One juv, Soysambu Ranch 18/4/95 KN; one juv, Wanje Camp, 
Mihuti 8/5/95 DM. Dusky Flycatcher: Two eggs in a nest in a potted plant, Kiambere 
Road, Nairobi Hill 1/6/94 FN & JH; two eggs in a nest in a potted plant, later two 
fledglings fed by parents, Kiambere Road, Nairobi Hill Oct-Nov 1994 FN & AH. Chin- 
spot Batis: Male carrying moth to female sitting in nest, Langata, Nairobi 25/1/95 
WMBw. Paradise Flycatcher: Juv near Ikuywa stream, Kakamega Forest 6/1/94 CJ; 
three nestlings ringed and later observed being fed by adult out of the nest, National 



26 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 

Museum ground, Nairobi 20-25/95 CJ. Plain-backed Pipit: Nest with three young, 
later fledged, Kima Hill, Machakos 18-19 & 26/5/94 CJ. Richard's Pipit: Adult 
incubating, North Kinangop 27/6/95 CJ. Sharpens Longclaw: Incubating two eggs, 
North Kinangop 27/6/95 CJ; adult carrying food, Njabini, South Kinangop 28/6/95 CJ. 
African Pied Wagtail: Nest with two chicks/Loldia farm, Naivasha 15/7/95 JW; three 
juvs fed by adult, Sailing Club, Nairobi Dam 28/12/94 FN; adult carrying insect into 
nest, Elsamere Conservation Centre, Naivasha 29/1/95 BK. Mountain Wagtail (conf 
61A): Pair feeding four juvs with insects, Chagaik Estate, Kericho 18/1/94 AJB. Black- 
backed Puffback: Juv begging, Nairobi Arboretum 5/4/95 WMBw; one juv, Kiambere 
Road, Nairobi 12/3/95 FN. Tropical Boubou: Nest with two eggs, later one nestling, 
Naivasha 30/3-20/4/95 CR. Grey-headed Bush Shrike: Juvs fed by parents, Naivasha 
29/1/95 CR. Fiscal: Two recently ftedged juvs, Loresho Ridge, Nairobi 19/4/95 
WMBw; adult brooding, Eldoret 2//4(95 MM; juv begging from adult, Arboretum, 
Nairobi 21/6/95 WMBw. Grey-backed Fiscal: Two juvs, Loldia Farm, Naivasha 1/3/95 
JW. Red- winged Starling: Nest with one chick, Naivasha 12-29/3/95 CR. Superb 
Starling: Juv fed by adult, Naivasha 4/2/95 CR; Nest with two young, later fledged, 
Soysambu Ranch 20/3/-1 5/4/95 KN. Bronze Sunbird: Nest with one egg, chick later 
fledged, Maseno 21/11/92 JA; juv flpd by male, Loresho Ridge, Nairobi 19/4/95 
WMBw. Mariqua Sunbird: Nest w^th two chicks, Siaya 22/12/92 JA. Variable 
Sunbird: Incubating one egg, Elangata Wuas, Kajiado 16/3/95 AS. Montane White- 
eye: Adults built nest, laid eggs, later deserted, National Museums, Nairobi 11-25/1/95 
CJ; juvs being fed, Gatamaiyu Forest 23/4/95 FN. Grosbeak Weaver: Two juvs, 
Splash, Nairobi 31/1/95 DR. Red-headed Weaver: Adult visiting nest regularly, 
hissing calls from the nest, Lake Bogoria Game Reserve 8/1/95 JOO et al.; adult male 
nest-building, Soysambu Ranch 18/3/95 KN. Baglafecht Weaver: Juv fed by adult 
male, Wajee Camp, Muhuti 23/5/95 DM; female feeding juvs, Wajee Camp, Mihuti 18/ 
2/95 DM; nest with two chicks, Njabini, N. Kinangop 17/5/95 SMK. Holub's Golden 
Weaver: One juv fed by "adult, Ridgeway Estate, Nairobi 7/12/94 FN. Rufous 
Sparrow: One juv leaving nest, Elangata Wuas 1/5/95 NS; nest with two chicks, 
Soysambu Ranch 27/5/95 KN; one juv, Loldia Farm, Naivasha 7/3/95 JW. Speckled- 
fronted Weaver: Adult carrying food near nest, Elangata Wuas, Kajiado 16/3/95 JSK. 
Bronze Mannikin: Five juvs in a flock of adults, Arboretum, Nairobi 21/6/95 WMBw; 
juvs fed by adult, Carnivore, Nairobi 5/7/95 WMBw. Streaky Seed-eater: One juv fed 
by adult, Upper Hill, Nairobi 1/5/95 FN. 

Other records: Afrotropical species 

White Pelican (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 10-13/6/94 NW. Darter (pres 
101A): Burn Dam, Taita Hills 24-26/9/92 NW. Grey Heron (pres 100B): Ziwani 
Camp, Tsavo West 10-13/6/94 NW. Squacco Heron (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo 
West 11/9/94 NW. Hamerkop (pres 88D): Bonham's Camp, Chyulu Hills 31/7-3/8/92 
NW. Yellow-billed Stork (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 10-13/6/94 NW. 
Woolly-necked Stork (100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW. Saddle- 
billed Stork (pres 100B): Ziwani camp, Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW. Sacred Ibis 
(pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 11/9/94 NW. African Spoonbill (pres 100B): 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 27 

Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 11/9/94 NW. Sacred Ibis (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo 
West 1 1/9/94 NW. Lesser Flamingo (pres 75D): Forty flying high over, Elangata Wuas 
15/6795 CB. Egyptian Goose (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 10-13/6/94 NW. 
Southern Pochard (pres 101A): Bura Dam, Taita Hills 24-26/9/92 NW. African 
Pygmy Goose: A female swimming off New Fisheries Jetty, Lake Naivasha 29/1/95 
JOO, BC & RD; one, Sondu-Miriu River mouth 12/2/95 WO, ON, JO, CA, PO, FN, 
DB, DO, NO & JA. Spur-winged Goose (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 11/9/ 
94 NW. White-backed Duck (pres 101A): Bura Dam, Taita Hills 24-26/5/9/92 NW. 
Hooded Vulture (pres 103A): Sabaki River 28/1/95 JS. African Marsh Harrier (pres 
61A): AHP, Kericho 18-21/11/93 NW. Harrier Hawk (pres 75D): Three individuals, 
Elangata Wuas 15/6/95 CB. Bateleur (pres 28D): Ndovu 1987 FA. African Hawk 
Eagle (pres 75D): One or two daily, Elangata Wuas 7-17/6/95 CB. Pale Chanting 
Goshawk (pres 28D): Ndovu 1987 FA. Little Sparrowhawk: Main car park, National 
Museums of Kenya, 10/6/95 LAB & OM. Martial Eagle (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, 
Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW. Pygmy Falcon (pres 28D): Ndovu 13/2/88 FA. Yellow- 
necked Spurfowl (pres 28D): Ndovu 13/2/88 FA. Vulturine Guineafowl (post pres-, 
100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW. Button Quail (pres 100B): 
Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 10-13/6/94 NW. Crowned Crane (post pres 100B): Ziwani 
Camp, Tsavo West 10-13/6/94 NW. Lesser Moorhen (pres 89D): Foraging in small 
pool, Tsavo East National Park 4/6/95 LL. Black Crake (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, 
Tsavo West 10-13/6/94 NW. African Finfoot (pres 62B): Wooded stream, 
Prettejohns', Mweiga 10-11/10/94 NW. Hartlaub's Bustard (pres 75D): Common, 
Elangata Wuas 7-17/6/95 CB. Black-bellied Bustard (pres 102D): One female, Kilifi 
3M8/-9/9/93 NW; (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West NW, TD, MS. Jacana (pres 
1(K)B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 10-13/6/94 NW. Kittlitz's Sandplover (pres 75D): 
At a dam, Elangata Wuas 7-17/6/95 CB. Blacksmith Plover (pres 51D): Lewa Downs, 
24/1/92 NW; (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 10-13/6/94 NW. Crowned 
Plover (pres 28D): Ndovu 1987 FA. Black-winged Stilt (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, 
Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW, TD & MS. Water Thicknee (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, 
Tsavo West 11/9/94 NW. Temminck's Courser (pres 89C): Tsavo West 16-18/4/92 
NW. Heuglin's Courser (post pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 
NW, TD & MS. Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (pres 28D): Ndovu 13/2/88 FA. 
Mourning Dove (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW, TD & MS; 
(pres 28D): Ndovu 13/2/88 FA. Hartlaub's Turaco (post pres 50D): Segara, Nanyuki 
6-7/2/93 NW. Red-chested Cuckoo (pres 102D): Seen and heard, Kilifi 8-16/4/93 
NW. Barn Owl (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW, TD & MS. 
Pearl-Spotted Owlet (pres 75D): Regularly seen or heard, Elangata Wuas 7-17/6/95 
CB. Donaldson-Smith's Nightjar (post pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West NW, 
TD, MS. Dusky Nightjar (pres 75D): Regular at night, Elangata Wuas V-17/6/95 CB. 
Pied Kingfisher (pres 75D): Dam, Elangata Wuas 13/6/95 CB. Half-collared 
Kingfisher (pres 89D): Kanderi Swamp, Tsavo National Park 4/6/95 LL (record to be 
submitted to EANHS OS-c Rarities Committee). Chestnut-bellied Kingfisher (pres 
100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW, TD & MS. Somali Bee-eater 
(pres 28D): Ndovu 1987 FA. White-headed Wood Hoopoe (pres 62C): Two adults, 



28 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1 994 

Lake Sonachi, Naivasha 6/94 AV. Scimitarbill (pres 51B): Foraging in trees, Shaba 
National Park 22-23/1/92, 27-30/4/93 NW. Green Wood Hoopoe (pres 100B): Ziwani 
Camp, Tsavo West 11/9/94 NW. Trumpeter Hornbill (pres 101A): Taita Hills 24-26/ 
9/92 NW. Yellow-billed Hornbill (pres 75D): Elangata Wuas 27/5/95 CB. Spotted- 
flanked Barbet (pres 50D): Segara, Nanyuki 6-7/2/93 NW. d'Arnauds Barbet (pres 
74C): Cottars Camp, Mara 1-3/4/93 NW. Red and Yellow Barbet (post pres 100B): 
Ziwani camp, Tsavo West 10-13/6/94 NW. Rufous-naped Lark (pres 88D): Bonham's 
camp, Chyulu Hills 31/7-3/8/92 NW. Fawn-coloured Lark (pres 101A): Taita Hills 
24-26/9/92 NW. Flappet Lark (pres 75D): Common, Elangata Wuas 7-17/6/95 CB. 
Wire-tailed Swallow (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW, TD & 
MS; (pres 75D): Elangata Wuas 28/5/95 CB. Mosque Swallow (pres 75D): Elangata 
Wuas 7-17/6/95 CB. Pied Crow (pres 88D): Bonham's Camp, Chyulu Hills 31/7-3/8/ 
92 NW. Brown-necked Raven (pres 28D): Ndovu 1987 FA. Grey Tit (pres 51C): 
Lewa Downs 12-27/10/92 NW. African Penduline Tit (pres 61B): Elburgon, 9-11/1/ 
92 NW; (pres 89C): Tsavo West 15-18/4/92 NW. Black-lored Babbler (pres 51D): 
Lewa Downs 24/1/92 NW; (pres 74C): Cottars Camp, Mara 1-3/4/93 NW; (pres 75D): 
Elangata Wuas 27/5/95 CB. Hinde's Babbler (post pres 77A): Four, Nzambani, Kitui 
29/11/95 DM. White-browed Robin Chat (post pres 101B): Russels Camp, Tsavo 
East 2-5A1/92 NW. Capped Wheatear (post pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 
18-21/10/94 NW, TD & MS. African Reed Warbler (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, 
Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW, TD & MS. Grey Wren Warbler (pres 51C): Lewa 
Downs 12-27/10/92 NW; (pres 74C): Sekanani Camp, Mara 2-4/12/92 NW. Winding 
Cisticola (pres 74C): Sekanani Camp, Mara 2-4/12/92 NW; (pres 100B): Ziwani 
Camp, Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW, TD & MS. Croaking Cisticola (post pres 75D): 
Elangata Wuas 26/5/95 CB. Northern Crombec (pres 88D): Bonham's Camp, Chyulu 
Hills 31/7-3/8/92 NW; (pres 101 A): Taita Hills 24-26/9/92 NW. Grey Flycatcher 
(pres 62B): Oserian Farm, Ngobit 8/2/93 NW. Little Tawny Pipit: Northern Mara 
River, Masai Mara Game Reserve 6/11/94 TP. Rosy-breasted Longclaw (pres 51C): 
Lomarik Farm, Timau 6/5/95 RC. Yellow-throated Longclaw (pres 52C): Leopard 
Rock, Mem National Park 21/1/92 NW. Grey-headed Bush Shrike (post pres 100B): 
Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW, TD & MS. Somali Fiscal (pres 28D): 
Ndovu 13/2/88 FA. Grey-crested Helmet Shrike (pres 62B): Seven individuals 
feeding in low bushes, Prettejohns', Mweiga 10-11/10/94 NW. Yellow-billed 
Oxpecker (pres 51C): Many occasions, Lewa Downs 12-27/10/92 NW. Wattled 
Starling (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW, TD, MS. Red- 
winged Starling (pres 74C): Cottars Camp, Mara 1-3/4/93 NW. White-crowned 
Starling (pres 28D): Ndovu 13/2/88 FA. Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird (post pres 
100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 10-13/6/94 NW. Red-chested Sunbird (pres 61A): 
A male, AHP, Kericho 18-21/11/93 NW. Hunter's Sunbird (pres 51C): Many 
occasions, Lewa Downs 12-27/10/92 NW. Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbird (post 
pres 62A): Male adult, Gilgil 29/10/94 SG. Beautiful Sunbird (pres 100B): Ziwani 
Camp, Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW, TD & MS. Variable Sunbird (pres 28D): Ndovu 
1987 FA. Fan-tailed Widowbird (pres 88C): 01 Tukai Lake, Amboseli N. Park 22/1/ 
95 FN. Fire-fronted Bishop (pres 51B): Samburu 27-30/4/93 NW. Spectacled 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 29 

Weaver (pres 75D): Elangata Wuas 17/6/95 CB. White-headed Buffalo Weaver (pres 
28D): Ndovu 13/2/88 FA. Chestnut Sparrow (pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 
10-13/6/94 NW. Yellow-spotted Petronia (post pres 62C): Eserian Farm, Ngobit 21- 
23/1/94 NW. Abyssinian Crimson-wing (pres 62A): Two adults, Gilgil 12/3/95 SG. 
Yellow-bellied Waxbill (pres 74C): Sekanani Camp, Mara 2^/12/92 NW. Crimson- 
rumped Waxbill (pres 61B): Elburgon 9-11/1/92 NW. African Firefinch (pres 75D): 
Elangata Wuas 7-17/6/95 CB. Quailfinch (pres 51C): Timau 6/5/95 RC. Black and 
White Mannikin (pres 75D): Elangata Wuas 7-17/6/95 CB. African Citril (pres 
74C): Cottars Camp, Mara 1-3/4/93 NW. 

Other records: Palaearctic species 

White Stork: 800+ flying over, Enkongo Narok Swamp, Amboseli National Park 22/1/ 
95 LL, JW1, AS, FN, NK, JO, AO, AOa, KN & VL; 210+, Menengai plains, Nakuru 7/ 
1/95 JOO, ON & FN; (post pres 76C): 300+, West Ulu 2/2/95 FN; 150+, Athi Plains 2/ 
2/95 LL, a, JOO, MF & LB; one, Naivasha 19/3/95 LL; one, Nairobi 17/3/95 LL; 
twelve, Tigoni 29/1/95 LL. Black Stork: One overhead, National Museums of Kenya, 
Nairobi 20/12/95 LL; three overhead, Lake Bogoria 7/1/95 LL; three soaring, Amboseli 
National Park 1/3/95 LL; Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW. Pallid Harrier 
(post pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW. Long-legged Buzzard: 
One overhead, Oldonyo Sabuk 2/4/95 LL. Booted Eagle: One overhead, Nairobi N. 
Park 25/3/95 LL. Osprey (pres 101B): Russel's Camp, Tsavo East 2-5/1/92 NW. 
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus (pres 103A): One at Sabaki River mouth 8/2/95 
CJ, GM, JS, JOO, KD, LB, LL & PB (the first record for East Africa; details to be 
submitted to EANHS OS-c Rarities Committe). Caspian Plover: One in breeding 
plumage, Sabaki River mouth 6/2/95 CJ, GM, JOO, LL & PB; five in breeding 
plumage, Tiwi River mouth 10/2/95 CJ, GM, JOO, LB, LL & PB. Wood Sandpiper 
(pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW, TD, MS. Common Snipe 
(pres 100B): Ziwani Camp, Tsavo West 18-21/10/94 NW, TD & MS. Great Snipe: 
One flushed, Lake Elmenteita 14/1/95 LL. Temminck's Stint: One foraging, Lake 
Nakuru 15/1/95 LL. Arctic Skua: One at Sabaki River mouth 8/2/95 CJ, GM, JS, JOO, 
KD, LB, LL & PB; Wasini Island, 23/11/85 CR. White-winged Black Tern (pres 
63D): Upper Tana 7/3/95 CJ & ON. Eurasian Bee-eater: Arroket Estate, Sotik 5/4/95 
IF & PF. Isabelline Wheatear: One female, North Aberdares 26/2/95 PLP & YMC; 
(pres 28D): Ndovu 13/2/88 FA. Great Reed Warbler (pres 63D): Upper Tana 7/3/95 
CJ & ON. Reed Warbler: One ringed at the Nairobi Museum 31/1/95 NbiRG. 
Blackcap (pres 74C): Sekanani Camp, Mara 2-4/12/92 NW. Red-throated Pipit: Two 
in garden,Tigoni 31/12/95 LL. Grey Wagtail (pres 62D): One adult, Northern 
Mathioya River 26/12/94 PLP & YMC. Yellow Wagtail: Arroket Estate, Sotik 31/3/95 
IF & PF. Red-tailed Shrike: One in garden, Tigoni 31/12/95 LL. 

Contributors 

AD, Ann Davies; AH, Amrik Heyer; AJB, Kimbo Beakbane; AO, Alice Oluoch; AOa, 
Anne Oakenfall; AS, Alfred Simiyu; AV, Anne Vaughan; BC, Brooks Childress; BK, 
Benard Kibara; CA, Cecil Agutu; CB, Colin Beale; CJ, Colin Jackson; CO, Caleb 



30 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1 994 

Oguai; CR, Charles Rugara; DB, Dorothea Brass; DI, Dorothea Irvine; DM, David 
Mutinda; DM, David Mutinda; DN, David Ngala; DO, Duncan Otieno; DR, Dee 
Raymer; EM, Evans Mukala; ES, Edwin Selempo; FA, Fiona Alexander; FK, Fidel 
Kyalo; GI, Geoffrey Irvine; GM, Gladys Moragua; HG, Hilary Garland; IF, Ian 
Francombe; JA, Jeam Agutu; JA, Jeam Agutu; JH, Jasdev Heyer; JMN, James Makau 
Nzioka; JO, Jennifer Oduori; JOl, Joab Omondi; JOO, Joseph Oyugi; JS, Jan Seys; 
JSK, Joseph S. Katitia; JW1, James Wachira; JW, James Wainaina; KD, Kun Devos; 
KLW, Keith L. Wood; KN, Kuria Ndung'u; LAB, Leon Bennun; LB, Luca Biddau; LD, 
Linda Davidson; LD, Lorna Depew; LL, Luc Lens; MAAC, M.A.A. Coverdale; MJ, 
Martin Johnson; MM, Muchai Muchane; MS, M. Seth-Smith; MV, Munir Virani; 
NbiRG, Nairobi Ringing Group; ND, Neil Davidson, NS, Nixon Sailepu; NK, Njeri 
Kimani; NO, Naphtah Otieno; NW, Neil Willsher; OM, Ogeto Mwebi; ON, Oliver 
Nasirwa; PB, Priscilla Boera; PF, Pamela Francombe; PLP, Peter Le Pelley; PN, Peter 
Njoroge; PO, Paul Onyango; RC, Rose Caldwell; RD, Roger Diamond; SG, Sue Gould; 
SMK, Stephen Mwihia Kiragu; SS, Sue Silvester; TD, T. Detrie; TP, Tony Potterton; 
VL, Veerle Lens; WMBw, Wednesday Morning Birdwalk; WO, Willis Okech; WOl, 
Wilson Omullo; YMC, Yvonne Malcolm-Coe. 

Heron and ibis 'tread on each others' toes' 

On the 20th February 1995 at Enkongo Lake, Amboseli, I observed through field 
glasses: a Black Heron and a Glossy Ibis fishing next to each other in shallow 
water. Now and then, when getting too close, they would both rear up and take 
defensive action. From under its spreading wings, the Black Heron would poke its 
head out and stab its beak at the ibis. They soon resumed feeding, no doubt taking 
advantage of the other disturbing fish and invertebrates. — Frans Hartmann, P O 
Box 30181, Nairobi 

Ulugulu Violet-backed Sunbirds Anthreptes neglectus at 
Sable Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Shimba Hills 

The Sable Valley Wildlife Sanctuary lies in an area of woodland/grassland 
mosaic, interspersed with indigenous forest stands, lying within 200 m of the 
dense riverine forest belt of the Mkurumuji valley on the south-eastern boundary 
of the Shimba Hills National Reserve. 

At 06:30 on 27 September 1994 I was on the open upper viewing platform of 
my house, which is just next to a dense forest patch. A pair of sunbirds appeared 
in a Crossopteryx febrifuga, a medium-sized woodland tree about 20 m away. 
After a moment or two they flew into an Afzelia quanzensis, a substantial forest 
tree no further from the house. I had excellent views in 10 x 40 Leitz binoculars. 
My field notes read as follows: 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 31 

"Male — forehead, upper mantle, tail: iridescent blue with a violet tinge: 
head, neck and wings seemingly black: black continues under chin and throat, but 
no metallic noted there. On wing shoulder an obvious cobalt blue/green flash or 
squarish panel. Beneath greyish white. Female as per books, but I did not see 
yellow." This relates to the fact that the female was identical to the male in 
wearing metallic blue above, only lacking the black chin/throat. I did not see any 
eye-stripe. 

I am familiar with the Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird, Anthreptes orientalis, 
and with its much drabber female, which I commonly came across on my foot 
safaris in northern Kenya. 

On this occasion the birds gave a thin, sibilant sunbird-like warble, but I could 
not say this amounted to a "loud persistent squeak" as described by Mackworth- 
Praed and Grant {Birds of Eastern and North-eastern Africa, 2nd edn, 1960). 

The birds perched on both trees on the topmost twigs, and were thus very 
prominent for several minutes, in good early sunlight. 

I have not found the species again despite energetic searching, particularly 
down in the forest, and assume they must have been passing from one favoured 
area to another. — Fiona Alexander, P O Box 890, Ukunda 

[Editors' note: This scarce species of coastal forests has recently been recorded in 
Mkongani Forest (Shimba Hills), the Tana River forests and Buda Forest Reserve. 
Further records are requested. See recent issues of Kenya Birds.] 

Active anting in Collared Sunbirds 

On 13 October 1994 1 was able to observe three Collared Sunbirds indulge in that 
aspect of feather maintenance termed anting. In the past I have only witnessed 
this in members of the thrush family and, on one occasion, a Hoopoe. My 
available literature does not mention anting in the Nectariniidae. 

The scene of the activity was a small shrub Heeria reticulata which stands 3 
m from the forest edge, and 8 m. from my observation point on the open upper 
viewing platform of my house (see 'Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbirds', above). 

I observed the sunbirds through Leitz Trinovid 10 x 40 binoculars, although I 
was so close that magnification was merely a luxury! 

From 07:10 until 07:25 I watched a pair of Collared Sunbirds, which then 
were joined by a second female. Their unusually 'busy' activity drew my 
particular attention, and I then noted that the stems of the Heeria were literally 
crawling with hundreds of small black ants. The following comments from my 
field notebook may be of interest: "An incredible flurry of activity as they both 
frenziedly pick tiny ants off the stems and shove them under their 'armpits', 
shivering out their wings. They seem almost in ecstasy. After about ten minutes of 



32 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1 994 

this they fly up into the nearby shrubbery, knock the dewdrops off the leaves onto 
their wings and mantle, then billing away at the ants, they ruffle and shake the 
moisture through their plumage. Then off on a joyous chase through the bushes. A 
second female goes through the same act after them." 

On 26 October 1994 a single female again anted in the same shrub at 07:00. 
My notes: "Again she darts among the dew-laden foliage to create a shower-bath 
afterwards." 

This is the first occasion I have witnessed 'active anting', my other sightings 
relating to 'passive anting' when the bird lay on the ground among the ants. 

At risk of being charged with anthropomorphism, I would say that the 
sunbirds appeared to derive an almost ecstatic enjoyment from the activity. — 
Fiona Alexander, P O Box 890, Ukunda 

Is the Sokoke Scops Owl in the Shimba Hills? 

Sable Valley Wildlife Sanctuary lies immediately adjacent to the Shimba Hills 
National Reserve, at its south-eastern extremity. The substrate of the region is 
variously described as Magarini sands. Mazeras sandstone, or Shimba grit, and it 
appears that these slightly differing soil types are fairly randomly distributed 
throughout the area. The altitude of the Sanctuary is generally about 240 m above 
sea level. Among the area's indigenous forest trees are Cynometra webberri, 
Manilkara sansibarensis, M. sulcata, and Brachystegia spiciformis. 

Apart from the slightly higher altitude, the habitat thus has many common 
features with that inhabited by the Sokoke Scops Owl Otus ireneae in Arabuko- 
Sokoke forest . 

Since taking up residence here in November 1992, 1 have monitored the owl 
calls hopefully. To begin with, I was inspired with some excitement, as were the 
team from the Ornithology Department of the Museums in nearby Maluganji 
Forest {Kenya Birds. 1(2): 26). For some months I was convinced that I had 
Sokoke Scops Owls commonly around the house. The only descriptions I could 
obtain of its call were the invariable, "It sounds like the Golden-rumped 
Tinkerbird". 

However, at last I found a detailed and exact description of the various calls of 
the Barred Owlet Glaucidium capense in the splendid volume The Owls of 
Southern Africa (by A. Kemp & S. Calburn), and it became evident that these are 
what I had been hearing. 

Having now become extremely familiar with the differing calls of the Barred 
Owlet at all seasons, I heard a quite different call during the night of 1 1 October 
1994. My note reads: " 'Plonk, plonk, plonk' x 6 or 8 times, monotonously, on and 
on. Even when Barred Owlet is doing a single-note theme, each note consists of a 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 33 



'fruitier', more musical tone than this. The description 'similar to Golden-rumped 
Tinkerbird' fits". 

There were none of the purring, trilling, mellow attributes of the Barred 
Owlet's calls. 

I have not heard a similar call since, and I therefore make no attempt to 
establish this as a record, but describe it merely to add further fuel to the 
possibility that the Sokoke Scops Owl may well be present in the Shimba Hills 
area. — Fiona Alexander, P O Box 890, Ukunda. 

Great White Pelicans in the Shimba Hills 

On 16 October 1994 I beheld in 10 x 40 binoculars a flock of ten Great White 
Pelicans sitting in the top of a large forest tree, half-way up the eastern slope of 
the hills opposite my house. 

My observation point was on the open upper view in platform of my house 
(see 'Uluguru Violet-backed Sunbirds', above). Beyond the valley basin of forest, 
the hills slope upwards fairly steeply, dissected here and there by densely forested 
stream gorges. 

At 07:00, I was scanning the opposite slope for sable when I noted what 
initially appeared to be giant white blossoms covering the crown of ah isolated 
indigenous tree approximately half-way up the green grassed slope, about 2 km 
from me. After some minutes' scrutiny, various individuals stretched their wings 
and altered position slightly, and it then became obvious that they were pelicans. I 
was at first loath to believe my eyes, as I could not conceive of these huge aquatic 
birds in a less likely situation, but pelicans they indubitably were. 

For two hours I kept my glasses firmly glued to them, and at 09:00 they all 
arose and took to the air, when the obvious black primaries marked them as Great 
Whites. They spiralled slowly in a thermal, drifting in a northerly direction on the 
south-easterly breeze. After about 10 min, when they had gained sufficient 
altitude, they struck off north-westerly across the summit of the range in a ragged 
V-shape and were lost to sight. 

Great White Pelicans do not seem to have been recorded from this region 
(atlas square 114A), and I have no knowledge of any large body of water 
containing fish in this neighbourhood where they have been sighted. The nearby 
coastline likewise boasts no record as far as I am aware. The track they were 
flying, if they maintained it, could have taken them to Aruba Dam, 125 kms away. 
From which direction they came I do not know, but it is unlikely they would come 
from say, Lake Jipe, in order to fly to Aruba, which would be a relatively short 
flight in a straight line. It is more likely that they arrived from some point south, in 
Tanzania or beyond. — Fiona Alexander, Box 890, Ukunda. 



34 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1 994 

Shoebill Balaeniceps rex at Amboseli National Park, Kenya 

On the 13 December 1994 I made a short day trip to Amboseli National Park with 
Brian Finch, Leonard Maina and Karinga Kariuki. 

There had been an abundance of rain in Kenya over the last month and 
Amboseli had shared in this. As our time was short, we concentrated on the now 
abundant wet areas. These included a freshwater spring, Maji ya Kioko or Lake 
Conch — a well-known birding spot — and the Sinet Canal which flows south- 
east from it. 

On the Kitirua Circuit Track bordering the Sinet Canal, at 11:15, we saw a 
Shoebill Balaeniceps rex, almost certainly the same bird that had earlier provided 
Kenya's first official sighting in the Masai Mara, at Musiara Springs. 

Where the bird was standing the canal had around 5-8 cm depth of water, and 
grass around 15 cm high. The sun was behind us and we watched the bird for 
about 40 minutes, after approaching carefully to a distance of about 150 m. The 
bird stood, apparently resting, and gave no sign of concern. During our watch it 
shook itself and fluffed its feathers twice, and appeared to be extremely healthy. 
Towards the end of our watch, the bird lifted itself up and flew a distance of about 
5 m; we did not see any sign of missing feathers. The bird was of a strong deep 
grey, identical to an adult bird that I had earlier seen near Murchison Falls in 
Uganda. However, there was a very slight brown wash on the secondary coverts. 
The bill was modeled grey and pink with pink predominating, and the legs were 
pale. 

The bird I saw in Uganda was easily visible in grass about 25 cm tall in a 
swampy area by the Nile. The Amboseli bird was in somewhat similar habitat, but 
there were no large stands of papyrus nearby. Behind the spring and to the East 
were some higher stands of swamp grass. 

It would be interesting to compare this sighting with the others which have 
been recently recorded. It is also to be hoped that observations will continue on 
this bird as long as it stays in Amboseli, since this is such an easily accessible area 
in a well- visited park. — Jorie Butler Kent, Box 59749, Nairobi. 

Shoebill Safari 

Stories of the sudden appearance of the Shoebill in Kenya prompted us to travel to 
Amboseli and become fully fledged 'twitchers'. We had heard that a single bird 
had been seen in the swamps by the Ol Tukai bandas, and can confirm its presence 
there on the weekends of 18/19 and J5/26 February. On the first occasion our 
party was somewhat sceptical as the swamps were of reeds and grass and afforded 
nothing of the cover of their supposed preferred habitat, papyrus. At the end of the 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1 994 35 

track, however, a quick scan with binoculars was sufficient to single it out: its size 
and unusual blue-grey colouring made it distinctive and it was later easily 
relocated with the naked eye, even when at some distance. 

Initially 100 m away, the bird showed no shyness and not only flew to within 
half that distance but also plated itself conveniently in front of a group of grazing 
elephants. At this range its primaries exhibited a glossy sheen and its 
extraordinary bill showed a hint of pink. On several occasions it spread its wings 
flat out on the ground as if drying them, and was also alert to movements in the 
water, once catching a brownish-black fish larger than its own head; the tail fin 
remained outside its bill and after a few moments it appeared to give up and 
deposit its catch back in the water. 

We had by this time settled down comfortably and were visited by several 
tourist vehicles, their occupants assuming we were admiring the elephants. We 
heard no comment regarding this curious bird which seemed to remain unnoticed 
by all. Indeed its presence was not known at the gate, nor at the bandas nor at any 
of the lodges we visited. Which prompts me to ask what monitoring of this 
amazing bird is being done in its present extralimital location? Is the Museum 
relying on individual reports such as this one to keep informed? [Yes. — Editors.] 
And do these sightings now lend more credence to previous 'records' in 
Shombole and Thika, as quoted in the Bird Atlas of Kenya? 

The second of our sightings, incidently, was a week after the first and the bird 
was within 200 metres of its first location and was still easily visible. It occurred 
to us on both occasions that we were enjoying a most peaceful bit of twitching — 
and for no ordinary LB J! Were we in Europe there would doubtless have been a 
gaggle of twitchers all armed to the gills with optical accessories and roped off 
accordingly. Shoebill T-shirts would be on sale nearby and a new Shoebill- 
flavoured ice-cream would have been introduced at the local cafe. Yes, Kenya 
really is a magical place for birdwatching! — Neil and Linda Davidson, Wendy 
Rutter, Mike Webb, P O Box 24722, Nairobi. 

Wattled Plover breeding in Masai Mara 

We were surprised to note in the Atlas that the Wattled Plover has no breeding 
record in Kenya. We have a photograph taken on Christmas Day 1988 [copy 
deposited in the Ornithology Department — Editors.] that shows this species on 
its nest on the main Governors Camp road, just 500 m from the Musiara Gate of 
the Masai Mara Game Reserve. Indeed, the wardens had protected the bird from 
passing vehicles by placing three sticks around her. We were surprised that such a 
record in such a prominent place had gone unreported, and were amused to note a 
similar observation on the front cover of Swara, January 1995. Needless to say, 



36 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 

Jonathan Scott's picture was somewhat better than ours, bearing out the hint in his 
article that one should attempt to get at eye-level with the subject. — Neil and 
Linda Davidson, P O Box 24722, Nairobi. 

[Have any other readers seen this species breeding, in the Mara or elsewhere? — 
Editors.] 

Violet-backed repels Black-bellied Sunbird 

On the mid-morning of 26 March 1995 we sat on the bed rocks of the seasonal 
Olkeju Ngiro River, near Olorgesailie Prehistoric site, watching a pair of Black- 
faced Sandgrouse. Our attention was distracted by the loud squabbling of two 
sunbirds in a nearby bush parasitised by a blooming Loranthus plant. 

A male Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird was chasing a male of the Smaller 
Black-bellied Sunbird from the bush. After that the Violet-backed returned to feed 
from the red flowers. As he fed, he fanned out his tail and flicked his wings 
simultaneously in rapid succession. He then perched on a small branch to groom 
himself. 

The Smaller Black-bellied Sunbird, this time accompanied by a female, 
returned to feed in the same bush. No sooner had they begun than the Violet- 
backed lashed out at them so vigorously that they scrambled for safety. The 
Violet-backed then fed for a short time and resumed its grooming. The Smaller 
Black-bellied Sunbirds made several more attempts to feed on the flowers but 
were repelled by the Eastern Violet-backed each time. When we left two hours 
later to pursue other birdlife, the bird was still defending its bush. — Onesmas 
Kahindi and Joyce Kageci, P O Box 74901, Nairobi. 

Possible breeding record for Black-throated 
Wattle-eye at Galu Beach 

On 22 November 1994 a pair of adult Black-throated Wattle-eyes visited our 
birdbath at Galu (Bird Atlas of Kenya QSD 1 14B). They were accompanied by an 
immature male, the plumage of which was closely observed in good light. This 
was as described by Mackworth-Praed and Grant, {Birds of Eastern and North- 
eastern Africa, Vol 2, pp. 210-211): brownish grey above, rather than glossy 
black, with a conspicuous but small eye wattle. 

Although this species is seen only infrequently at our birdbath, we assume 
they are resident in the adjacent strip of coastal forest. It seems likely that the 
presence of an immature bird in company with an adult pair suggests breeding in 
QSD 1 14B.— Ken and Betty Bock, P O Box 641, Ukunda. 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 37 

Immature Silvery-cheeked Hornbills at Galu Beach 

On 20 February 1995 three Silvery-cheeked Hornbills were seen in the large fig 
tree near our house at Galu Beach (immediately south of Diani). One was an adult 
female; two were immatures, evidenced by their size (about half to three-quarters 
that of the adult) and by their small bills (one without a casque, the other with the 
mere beginnings of one). The plumage of the immatures was rather tatty, 
especially their tails, the general impression being that they were not long out of 
their nest. All three indulged in mutual preening. This is our first record of such 
very young birds in five years of birdwatching at Diani and Galu. 

This species is present here (and vocally so) throughout the year, though the 
size of flocks fluctuates greatly. There is a tendency for small flocks of two Or 
three birds between May and October, while large aggregations of up to 19 birds 
(not always associated with fruiting trees) occur during the hot, dry season. — Ken 
and Betty Bock, P O Box 641, Ukunda. 

[Remarkably, there still are scarcely any satisfactory breeding records of this 
species in Kenya — Editors.] 

Half-collared Kingfisher Alcedo semitorquata 
at Kanderi Swamp, Tsavo East National Park 

On 4 June 1995, at around 11:50 h, I was scanning some mudflats and shallow 
pools adjacent to the Voi River on the Kanderi Swamp Circuit, Tsavo East 
National Park. I saw a 'blue' kingfisher perched on a small bush hanging over the 
river, about 150 m away. I immediately noted a striking resemblance to the 
Common Kingfisher Alee do atthis, a species with which I am familiar since it is a 
common breeding bird in Belgium. The bird in question was very similar in jizz 
to Alcedo atthis, and was definitely much larger than the Malachite Kingfisher 
Alcedo cristata, a species which I have often observed while birdwatching 
throughout Kenya and South Africa and which I have handled during ringing 
work at the National Museums of Kenya. Looking more closely, the most obvious 
features were the large black bill, whitish neck patch and buffy underparts. After 
observing the bird for about one minute through my binoculars, it shifted position 
and showed its blue breast-patch. I then took my telescope, fixed it to the open 
roof of my Landrover and observed the bird'for another five minutes in bright 
sunshine, after which it flew off and did not turn up again. The telescope 
observations confirmed that this was indeed the Half-collared Kingfisher Alcedo 
semitorquata. The overall impression was of a relatively large 'blue' kingfisher 



38 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 




Woodland Kingfisher — Bryan Hanlon 

with heavy black bill, distinguished from Alcedo cristata by its much larger size, 
lack of turquoise crest, lighter back and buffy (not reddish) underparts. I could not 
see the colour of the legs. 

I returned to the same spot about two hours later, but could not relocate the 
bird. — Luc Lens, P O Box 40658, Nairobi. 



[This is a scarce species in Kenya, with a scattering of records from the area 
around Mt Kilimanjaro. This is the first record for atlas square 89D — Editors.] 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 39 

Bird survey of Malu Farm 

On 8 and 9 July 1995, a team of twelve people — most of them bird enthusiasts 
from various institutions, such as the National Museums of Kenya — visited 
Malu Farm in the Rift Valley near Naivasha. The short visit aimed to list birds, 
mammals and plants which can be seen at the site, which includes a stretch of 
attractive riverine forest along the Malewa River. The survey was carried out by 
invitation from the managers, who want to convert the place to a private camp 
that will attract ecotourists and trout fishers. A total of 117 bird species was 
recorded, most of them in the riverine forest and adjacent scrubland. Among 
many others, noteworthy species included Crowned Eagle, White-headed Wood 
Hoopoe and Fine-banded Woodpecker. As this site also appears to have potential 
for migrant birds from Europe and Asia, a second visit is planned for January, in 
the middle of the northern winter. 

Malu Farm, situated halfway between Lake Naivasha and the Kinangop 
Plateau, is ideal for those wanting a quiet break, or can be a comfortable base for 
those wishing to explore nearby sites, such as Lake Naivasha and the Aberdares 
National Park. The site will be open to visitors in the very near future. — Luc 
Lens, P O Box 40658, Nairobi. 

Rakewa: Breeding site for Pink-backed Pelicans 

On 25 February, 14 and 16 April 1995, survey visits were made to the nesting site 
of the Pink-backed Pelicans at Rakewa near Oyugis township, Homa Bay 
District. In the February team were Dickson Ogwai, Joab Omondi, Joseph Oyugi, 
Paul Onyango and Wilson Omullo; Oyugi, Omondi and Omullo returned in April. 

Pink-backed Pelicans occur seasonally on almost any water body where fish 
are readily caught, including coastal creeks and estuaries. The breeding colonies 
are sometimes near their aquatic feeding grounds, but more often unaccountably 
far away, frequently shared with storks, ibises and herons. They often breed in 
populated areas close to man, in towns and villages, and can tolerate a good deal 
of human disturbance. 

Known breeding colonies are widely scattered in East Africa, mainly in 
Uganda and Kenya, and most consist of less than 100 pairs. Not all sites are in 
regular use. However, the Rakewa site has been used by up to 250 pairs for over 
200 years, and is protected by the area's Luo people. 

The pelicans prefer to nest on tall trees (such as boababs, large Ficus species, 
Bombax and Qhlorophora). In western Kenya and Uganda they start nesting 
between August and November, with a peak in the late rains of August to October. 
The young fledge by the dry season in January to February. 



40 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 

The birds often resort to their traditional site annually, perhaps for centuries. 
Their continual re-occupation of the same site may eventually kill the nesting 
trees and force them to move, but they seldom shift far. 

During our first visit we made brief observations. On one fig tree were two 
fully-fledged young pelicans and two juvenile Black-headed Herons, sitting in 
nests of twigs and sticks. Another pair of juvenile herons flew from the ground 
and perched on a branch. We counted sixteen stick nests altogether. 

During the second visit, twenty-seven adult pelicans and three Black-headed 
Herons were observed on an evening roost. We also conducted an interview, 
focusing on people whose land borders the breeding site. Five land owners were 
interviewed. The survey revealed that in recent years, there has been increasing 
human pressure on the site, causing habitat degradation. The valley bottom has 
been reclaimed for sugar cane and bananas, whereas the smallholdings 
surrounding the site have extended closer to the nesting trees, or even below 
them. This has resulted in many trees losing their branches or being cut down 
altogether. Part of the community claims that the birds' droppings destroy their 
crops, and the birds are therefore chased off the trees, or the branches cut down to 
control their numbers. 

It i§ evident that humans continue to interfere with the large trees used by the 
birds for nesting and roosting. When we visited the site there were seven fig trees 
remaining, of which just three were large, mature trees. If this trend continues, the 
remaining few trees might all be destroyed, and the pelicans would then be forced 
to abandon the site. There is an urgent need to stop the destruction and plant more 
trees to replace the ones already cut down. This will involve a community-based 
conservation and awareness programme. — Joseph Oyugi, P O Box 40658, 
Nairobi. 



'Request for cormorant breeding information 

I am currently studying the comparative ecology and breeding biology of the 
Great and Long-tailed Cormorants at Lake Naivasha. Any information you may 
have regarding past or present breeding activity by either of these species in the 
vicinity of Lake Naivasha would be greatly appreciated. I am particularly 
interested in knowing when breeding* occurred (month and year), where 
(including a brief description of the breeding site), approximately how many nests 
were noticed and whether there were any other species breeding at the same time 
in the same location. Please send any information Jo me at P O Box 1497, 
Naivasha. All letters will be acknowledged. Many thanks. Brooks Childress. 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 41 

Letter to the Editors 

Dear Sirs, 

My wife and I have returned to Kenya after 20 years in Britain, Tanzania and 
(most recently) Rwanda. 

We have welcomed the opportunity to renew our association with friends and 
colleagues in Kenya and to witness the many exciting and promising 
developments in wildlife research. 

Your publication Kenya Birds is most welcome and the range of topics 
covered makes it very readable. However, I am surprised to note that few articles 
provide any supporting references or suggested further reading. As a result it is 
not easy to locate the original source of observation or to pursue a subject further. 
Thus, for example, Simon Thomsetts excellent article on quelea control (Vol 3 
No. 1) contains many interesting data but it is tantalising not to know where to go 
for more information. Could the authors be encouraged to give references or a 
'recommended reading' list where appropriate? 

In a similar vein, it occurs to me that some of your contributors and readers 
may be unaware of work carried out in the past, especially where this was 
published in relatively inaccessible or specialist journals. For example, a number 
of papers on the care of raptor casualties, on pesticides and on deaths in flamingos 
on Lake Nakuru appeared in veterinary and allied publications in the 1970s. I can 
provide details to any reader who is interested. 

Perhaps a comprehensive bibliography of publications on Kenyan avifauna is 
required, which could be produced periodically, in parts, in Kenya Birds. This 
would not only provide a useful record of past contributions to the subject but also 
serve as an easily accessible resource for current workers, whether well 
established in the country or carrying out short-term projects. 

Yours faithfully, 

John Cooper 

Current address: Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, University of 
Kent at Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NX, UK. 

[Editors 'note: Our policy so far has been to keep things simple and avoid lengthy 
citations. What do readers think? Maybe a list of further reading? A similar bibliography 
to the one that Prof. Cooper suggests is published as a supplement to the Bulletin of the 
African Bird Club, 2(1), March 1995 — this deals with all papers and notes on African 
birds in 1994.1 



42 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 

The Augur Buzzard project 

The Augur Buzzard Project ( ABP) is a two-yeal\ study focusing on the ecology of 
the Augur Buzzard in two main nesting habitat types (cliffs and trees) within the 
Lake Naivasha area. The project is funded by the Peregrine Fund Inc. (USA), the 
Aga Khan Foundation (Switzerland) and Earthwatch (USA). Collaborating 
institutions include the National Museums of Kenya, University of Leicester 
(UK) and the Elsamere Conservation Centre (Kenya). The ABP aims to 
understand more about the species' distribution, abundance and ecological 
requirements (primarily with respect to habitat) so that an ideal Augur Buzzard 
habitat model can be constructed. This model will then be used in other parts of 
the country to predict whether habitat is responsible for lower Augur Buzzard 
populations. 

Why Augur Buzzards? 

The Augur Buzzard is one of East Africa's most frequently seen birds of prey. It is 
common in the East African highlands where it inhabits open moorland country, 
mountains, forest glades, inland cliffs, cultivation and baobab country. In Kenya it 
ranges from the shores of Lake Victoria, across the eastern Rift Valley into the 
Tsavo plains and south into Tanzania. The bird is rarely found along the coast. 

Despite the fact that it is widespread and conspicuous, very little is known 
about the biology and ecology of the Augur Buzzard. The late Leslie Brown 
described the Augur Buzzard as one of his favourite birds and had hoped to make 
a fuller study of it. The bird has been unjustly neglected, perhaps because it 
seemed abundant at the time. 

The Augur Buzzard has often been described as widespread and locally 
abundant. It has also been portrayed as a species that is well adapted to cultivated 
land and dense human habitation. A typical example is the super-abundant Augur 
Buzzard population which occurs around Lake Naivasha, a region where 
intensive horticulture is practised. 

While the Augur Buzzard is today still relatively conspicuous and abundant, 
its numbers are depressed compared to the recent past. Between 1968 and 1972, 
road transects conducted along the Nairobi-Naivasha road by G. Cunningham- 
van Someren yielded Augur Buzzard numbers which were well into double 
figures. Present (1993-1994) road counts conducted along the same road have 
yielded only two or three individuals. In the years between 1965 and 1967, Leslie 
Brown found marked differences in the numbers of Augur Buzzards between 
areas of plains/thornbush (one Augur Buzzard every 13 miles) and areas of 
cultivated/inhabited lands (one Augur Buzzard every 23 miles). These findings 
need to be re-evaluated to determine the birds' present status in different parts of 
the country. 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 43 

In some areas today, e.g. the central highlands, only around one Augur 
Buzzard remains for every 24 present in the recent past; in other areas, such as 
Lukenya and Ami River, the ratio is 1:3. The Eagle Hill area in Embu has over the 
years also shown a marked decline in the number of Augur Buzzards. Leslie 
Brown attributed this decline to human population pressure. 

According to Sorley and Anderson, who conducted a recent study on raptor 
diversity in areas of different land-use in south-central Kenya, three main factors 
affect raptor density and diversity as a result of changes in land-use. These are: 

(1) Overgrazing by domestic livestock alters the original vegetative cover. This 
potentially affects the abundance and distribution of prey; 

(2) Cultivation replaces the original vegetation completely and may involve the 
use of chemicals that are toxic to raptors and their prey; 

(3) Human hunting pressure reduces prey populations. 

The impact of habitat alteration on raptors varies according to their ecological 
requirements. My study focuses on Augur Buzzards for the following reasons: 

(1) Although they are locally abundant, very little is known about the behaviour 
and ecology of the Kenyan population. The species has only ever been 
studied in the Matopos Hills, in Zimbabwe. There the focus was on the bird's 
breeding biology, its interspecific relationships and population density. 

(2) Their numbers are declining in areas of intensive land-use. 

(3) They are highly conspicuous raptors that can be censused easily. They are 
also aesthetically beautiful and charismatic, representing our natural world, 
and have always been associated with farmers — hence the name 'farmer's 
bird'; 

(4) Individuals can easily be told apart. 

How can you help? 

You can help the study by making some simple observations about Augur 
Buzzards and their habitat. If you know of any Augur Buzzard nest(s) around the 
country, please let me know by filling out and returning the simple questionnaire 
enclosed in this issue. 

Also let me know if you think the number of Augur Buzzards in your home 
area has changed over the years. It is worth recollecting that birds of prey 
comprise about 10% of all bird species, but include nearly 20% of all the 
threatened ones. Do your bit for conservation — help us to help the Augur 
Buzzard! — Munir Virani, Augur Buzzard Project, Elsamere Conservation 
Centre, P O Box 1497, Naivasha. Tel (0311) 21055. 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 



The social life of the Social Weaver 

Leon Bennun 
P O Box 40658, Nairobi 

Note: This is a version of an article that first appeared in Kenya Past and Present, 
vol. 24, 1992. The Editors thank the Kenya Museum Society for permission to 
reproduce it. 

The National Museums' Olorgesailie Prehistoric Site, which protects an 
excavation of fossils and Acheulian artefacts (see article, this issue), lies some 70 
km south of Nairobi. Not a great distance, but it could as well be another world. 
The road from the capital plunges over the edge of the Rift Valley and descends 
the flank of Ol Doinyo Esakut by a series of steep steps, before levelling out on 
the valley floor near the village of Oltepesi. The country here is hot and harsh. 
Every tree and bush seems hostile, studded with spines that lash and tear. During 
the brief rainy seasons the thorns are concealed by a deceptively delicate flush of 
greenery, and the air is heavy with the^buzz of insects. More typically the 
branches are spiky and bare, a stinging wind whips dust from the ground, and the 
only sound is the remote tinkling of bells, from goats and cattle moving 
indistinctly through a haze of heat. 

There is a sense of timelessness at Olorgesailie. This is especially marked in 
the evening when the sun finally dips behind the escarpments to the West, the 
baked landscape is bathed in molten light; and it is not difficult to picture a group 
of Homo erectus winding their way up from the shore of the ancient lake, 
evidenced now only by a serried series of diatomaceous cliffs. The site is at its 
best at this time of day. Unfortunately most visitors arrive in the blazing middle 
hours, when only an unusually intense interest in stone tools can save the circular 
tour of the excavations from being something of an ordeal. But even the most 
heat-dazed tourist, collapsed on the verandah of one of the site's thatched huts, is 
likely to be struck by the tame little birds, pinkish-grey with a pale cap, that hop 
up inquisitively right to one's feet, and by the bulky bundles of dried grass 
adorning all the larger trees. These are the Grey-capped Social Weavers and their 
nests. 

A thatched residence 

Grey-capped Social Weavers (Pseudonigrita arnaudi), are small birds (an 
individual weighs around 20 g) in the family Ploceidae -r- the sparrows, weaver- 
birds and allies. Like their relations the sparrow-weavers, they do not really 
weave their nests but thatch them out of dry grass. The result is a strong, bulky, 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 45 

rather untidy structure constructed near the end of a thorny acacia twig. Each nest 
has two entrances facing downwards. This is presumably a protective device; if 
an unwelcome visitor arrives through one hole, the bird can make a rapid exit 
through the other. But this architecture is less than ideal during the breeding 
season, for there is nowhere for the eggs to sit without rolling out of one of the 
holes. The birds solve this problem by sealing one hole with a plug of dry grass, 
creating a secure rounded chamber. 

The nests rely on inaccessibility rather than inconspicuousness for protection. 
However, they are not proof against birds such as the Gabar Goshawk or Grey 
Hornbill, which will spike a hole in the wall or rip the roof off to reach the eggs or 
helpless chicks. Large snakes such as the Boomslang also make heavy inroads. 

Of the trees around Olorgesailie, Social Weavers nest for preference in the 
big, flat-topped Acacia tortilis. Nests are also often found in large specimens of 
Acacia mellifera, one of the 'wait-a-bit thorn' species and, with its evil little 
recurved spines, a nightmare for the field ornithologist. On the lava ridge in front 
of the site, the birds build on top of the high, whip-like emergent branches of 
Acacia Senegal This must offer them a good deal of protection, but one feels for 
the sitting birds when the branches are lashed wildly back and forth in the short 
but violent gusts that herald the onset of a rainstorm. 

I studied Grey-capped Social weavers at Olorgesailie from March 1985 to 
August 1987. They interested me because I wanted to understand their social way 
of life. In particular, I was investigating a behaviour known as communal, or 
cooperative, breeding. 

Surrogate parents 

Communal breeding is not quite as licentious as it sounds. The term refers to a 
social system where more than two birds cooperate in rearing young: thus some 
birds, called 'helpers', assist in caring for offspring that are not their own. There is 
a wide variety of communal breeding systems, and it is dangerous to generalise, 
but helpers are most often non-breeding birds that seem to be waiting for a chance 
to reproduce. The behaviour is known to occur in more than 200 bird species, 
mainly in jthe tropics, and has generated considerable interest among biologists. 
This is because it presents an evolutionary paradox. According to the theory of 
natural si election, animals should behave so as to maximise their own 
reproductive success. Why then should an individual invest time and energy in 
someone else's children. 

Hidden benefits 

If we assume that the behaviour has evolved through natural selection, then the 
paradox must be resolved by showing that helping is in fact adaptive. There are 



46 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 

two broad ways in which this could be so. First, the helpers may be gaining some 
hidden, 'direct' benefit, which will in fact increase their own reproductive success 
over their lifetime. For instance, the young birds they assist to rear may assist 
them in turn when the helpers begin breeding. Or the helper may be hoping to 
take over a neighbouring territory by force, using the young birds as extra muscle- 
power. Feeding chicks could give helpers valuable experience which will improve 
their own performance later on; they might be hoping to mate with one of the 
breeders the following season; or, despite appearances, some of the young birds in 
the nest could actually be their own offspring. In all these cases, the behaviour 
directly benefits the helper itself. 

Alternatively, helpers may be propagating their own genes in an 'indirect' 
fashion. This idea is sometimes called 'kin selection'; the point is that an 
individual's genes occur not only in its own offspring, but also in the offspring of 
its relatives. In genetic terms, a brother or sister is worth as much as a son or a 
daughter, since each on average shares half one's genes. Thus, under certain 
circumstances, selection could favour individuals that aid their relatives rather 
than rearing their own young. The circumstances under which this should occur 
are given by 'Hamilton's rule'. Simply put, this states that helping will be 
favoured when the benefit, weighted by the appropriate degree of relatedness, is 
greater than the cost. 

The significance of kin selection in explaining helping behaviour has been 
hotly debated. If kin selection is important, then helpers should assist close 
relatives in preference to more distant ones, and their action should increase the 
reproductive success of the birds they help. It has been difficult to prove 
conclusively that these requirements are met. The majority of communal breeders 
live in all-purpose territories that are defended by a family group. In these cases, 
the helpers are offspring from previous breeding seasons that have stayed at 
home. These helpers do indeed assist close relatives, but only, one could argue, 
because there is nobody else around. 

Most studies have found that the breeders' reproductive success does indeed 
increase with the number of helpers present. However, this effect could be caused 
by many other factors that are related to group size, such as territory quality or the 
age and experience of the breeders, and the relationships are almost impossible to 
disentangle. Even experiments to remove the helpers and see what happens are 
not conclusive. If breeding success drops, this could simply be because the group 
is socially disrupted, not because the breeders are no longer receiving help. 

These problems are much less severe in colonial species. Because no 
territories are defended, helpers could potentially assist any of a large number of 
other birds. Furthermore, many of the confounding factors associated with 
territoriality are absent, so reproductive success can be more directly related to 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 47 

what the helpers do. Unfortunately, only a very few species of communally 
breeding bird nest in colonies. The Grey-capped Social Weaver is one of them, 
and this is why I was interested in looking at its social system in detail. I wanted 
to find out whether kin selection had been important in the evolution of 
communal breeding in this species. 

Fools rush in... 

As a naive graduate student, I did not realise just how much I was taking on. In 
common with most bird species in tropical Africa, there was very little known 
about the ecology of Social Weavers, beyond the fact that they were reported to 
have helpers at the nest. Before I could say anything sensible about the 
evolutionary aspects, it would be necessary to fill in enormous blank areas abqut 
such basic features as dispersal, movements, mortality, sex ratios, social structure, 
clutch size, &gg characteristics, breeding success, nest predators, provisioning 
behaviour, chick growth and seasonality — just to name a few. Neither were the 
birds and the climate particularly predictable. The most crucial data were on 
reproductive success, which could obviously only be collected during the 
breeding season. Supposedly this was twice a year, during the long and the short 
rains. However, things were not so simple in practice. Either the rains failed; or 
the birds refused to breed; or they began to breed at completely the wrong time 
while I was away analysing data. In fact, by the end of the study I came to the 
unconventional conclusion, supported by statistical tests, that the main factor 
influencing the onset of breeding was the absence of the researcher. Eventually I 
managed to obtain data on breeding during three long rainy seasons. 

My study methods were straightforward and required a minimum of 
equipment, the most expensive item being in aluminium ladder. The aim was to 
build up a population of birds that could be identified individually by the 
combination of coloured bands on their legs. Since the plastic colour-bands had 
an annoying tendency to fall off through the combined effect of intense sunshine 
and abuse by the birds, each individual was also banded with a numbered 
aluminium ring that provided a permanent identity, so long as it could be captured 
again. Birds were caught mainly with the aid of a baited drop-trap, a wooden 
square covered with netting that could be lowered suddenly on top of a group of 
feeding birds. 

Once caught, twice shy 

This worked well at first, but the Social Weavers were anything but stupid and 
quickly learned that the trap plus my presence meant danger. This necessitated 
more and more elaborate subterfuges as the study progressed. We also carried out 
a lot of trapping with mist-nets away from the site to try and detect the birds' 



48 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 

movements. I monitored the state of growth or decay of nests on the site, and 
made intensive behavioural observations of building, roosting, incubation and 
provisioning. These essentially involved sitting for long hours under an acacia 
tree with a pair of binoculars and a notebook. 

During the breeding season, I kept track of the contents of each accessible 
nest on the site. This was hard work, since many of the nests were very high. With 
the ladder, a table and a tall pole for pulling down the branch I could reach most 
of them, but removing the fragile eggs or young, while teetering high on a wobbly 
ladder in the less than tender embrace of a tangle of acacia branches, was often a 
nerve-wracking experience. The fact that one never knew whether some other less 
amenable creature had temporarily taken up residence in the nest also added to the 
excitement. I managed to avoid fingering any snakes, but the day that a bushy- 
tailed dormouse leaped out onto my head, and I fell off the ladder, will certainly 
live in my memory. 

Babies need nappies 

Removing the nest contents posed other problems, too. It was impossible to reach 
a hand in through the open entrance, so the eggs or chicks had to be taken out 
from the other side, which meant pulling out the grass plug. This did the plug no 
good whatsoever, and after one or two removals is usually all but disintegrated. 
To bolster the seal I devised the idea of a 'nest nappy', a small, square piece of 
white cloth that would tie on under the plug and keep it comfortably in place. This 
method worked very well; the birds quickly became used to it, and it seemed to 
have no effect on their breeding success. It did, however, produce no end of 
mystification for visitors, who were often overheard asking the site staff how the 
birds managed to build such odd-looking nests. 

During nest checks I measured the young to assess their growth, and also 
photographed each clutch of eggs. Social Weaver eggs vary greatly in colour and 
pattern, but each female lays a consistent type. Through this means I could 
demonstrate that no more than one female ever laid in a nest: in other words, the 
helpers were not additional breeding females. 

Sexing the birds proved an enormous problem. Male and female Grey-capped 
Social Weavers look identical and behave very similarly, though there did seem to 
be some subtle differences in, for instance, the level of aggression or frequency of 
display. I was able to confirm some of these intuitions from tracking egg patterns, 
in cases where birds had changed mates. Unfortunately, though, there was no 
alternative at the end of the study but to sacrifice a few birds. Each of these also 
gave me information on the sexes of others. Reassuringly, these data confirmed 
my intuitions based on behaviour. 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 49 

Social Weavers turned out to live in family groups. Each group had a cluster 
of nests in a tree or set of trees; the family generally cooperated to build and 
maintain nests, and roosted together in the evenings. One tree might contain 
several families of various sizes, from simple pairs to large extended clans. The 
birds foraged widely in flocks and did not defend territories. However, they did 
chase away unfamiliar Social Weavers that ventured near their nests. For reasons 
that I do not yet understand, trees were quite often suddenly abandoned 
completely, the different groups often moving together to a new site some 
distance away. The number of apparently suitable, unoccupied trees, and trees 
with abandoned nests, suggested there was no shortage at all of good quality nest 
sites. Sometimes family members would split off and move away to distant trees, 
but they still maintained a connection with their relatives and were often seen 
visiting them (and sometimes helping). Generally, the birds' society seemed 
bound together by a network of kinship and familiarity at many different levels. 

Flighty females 

Adult Social Weavers had a high survival rate, of around 81% per year, but only 
about 20% of young birds still remained on the site a year later — the rest had 
died or dispersed. From tracking these disappearances, it appeared that females 
left home shortly before the start of their first breeding season, while yearling 
males remained behind. Practically all of these young males became helpers, 
along with a few second-year and older birds, but they worked only at the nests of 
relatives. If there were a choice among relatives, they chose to assist parents 
rather than a brother. Between a quarter and a third of all breeding pairs had help. 

Interestingly, more than half of these yearlings bred at the same time as they 
helped, a most unusual phenomenon. They continued feeding at their parents' 
nest while building and men incubating at their own, but stopped helping once 
their own chicks hatched. Most of these young males were paired with young 
females from outside the study site, who appeared after the breeding season had 
begun. In the adult population there were slightly more males than females (a 
ratio of 11:10), and each year some yearling males failed to find mates. 

What effect did the helpers have? In analysing the data, I compared the 
reproductive success of pairs that did or did not have helpers. I also included two 
other factors in the analysis: the age of the breeders (yearling or older) and their 
residence status (whether they were residents of the site, or had migrated in since 
the last breeding season). I used these factors because I suspected they affected 
reproductive success, and because older, resident birds were much more likely to 
have helpers than were younger birds or immigrants. 

The results showed that in each year helped pairs produced more young than 
unhelped pairs. This was the case even when the effects of age and residence were 



50 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 

accounted for. Pairs where the female was an immigrant did less well than others, 
and the reason for this seemed to be that they started breeding later in the season 
and hence had less chance to replace a clutch if anything went wrong. 

Pairs with helpers were more successful for a variety of reasons. In one year 
they laid larger clutches, and in all years their eggs and young survived better. 
Helped pairs were more likely to raise at least one chick than unhelped pairs. At 
successful nests that were not attacked by predators, helped pairs produced more 
fledglings than unhelped pairs in two out of three years. 

Overall, helped pairs did between 35% and 355% better than unhelped ones 
over the three years. The worse the season in terms of weather conditions and 
overall breeding success, the more dramatic the effect of help (although with only 
three years to go by, one cannot say too much about such trends). I could not 
detect any effect of helpers on the survival of the parents or the young birds after 
they had left the nest; however, helped pairs were more likely to nest again once 
they had already raised a brood successfully — probably because the helpers took 
over the demanding job of caring for the fledglings. 

This 'help effect* could have occurred because the helped birds were simply 
better parents anyway; in other words, because they always produced more young 
than others, and hence were more likely to have helpers. However, detailed 
analysis showed that this was not the case. Yet another potential problem had to 
be examined, too. Helpers usually assisted both parents. Suppose that when birds 
changed mates, their reproductive success dropped as a result. The 'help effect' 
could be an incidental result of this, since the new pair would also be less likely to 
have help. The analysis showed, though, that mate change alone had no effect on 
nesting success, so this difficulty could be discounted. 

Extra rations 

From the analysis of overall breeding success it looked as though helpers assisted 
both in repelling predators and in preventing starvation. I looked more closely at 
the results from feeding watches, to see if helpers actually increased the amount 
of food supplied to the chicks. This was tricky, since the food supply turned out to 
depend heavily on the number and age of the chicks. Also, the size of the food 
items, not just how often they were fed, had to be taken into account. After 
correcting for all these factors, it turned out that helpers did significantly increase 
the amount of food that the chicks received. Helpers did not help all the time, but 
were more likely to appear in the later part of the nesting cycle when the chicks' 
demands were greatest. 

Young birds grow slowly at first, then faster, then slow down again. The 
presence of helpers meant nestlings went from 10% to 90% of their maximum 
weight quicker than other chicks. The difference was between half a day and one 



Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1 , August 1994 51 

day. Growing faster could increase the chance of escaping nest predators late in 
the nestling stage. Large chicks will jump from the nest when attacked, rather 
than cowering inside like their smaller siblings, and this behaviour has definite 
survival value. 

So the overall results showed quite clearly that helpers did help, and also how 
this help might work. Clearly the helpers were gaining big 'indirect' benefits 
through the extra production of closely-related young. On the other-hand, the 
direct benefits they received were, at best, small. So kin selection appears to have 
been important in the evolution of communal breeding in Social Weavers. 

Family solidarity 

Helpers appeared to be behaving in accordance with Hamilton's rule to maximise 
the indirect benefits they obtained, and niinimise the cost. For instance, birds only 
helped when they were closely related to the recipients (otherwise their indirect 
fitness benefits would have been negligible). Of their relatives, they preferentially 
helped the most closely related. They helped most when their efforts would have 
the most impact, i.e. when nestlings most needed extra food. Breeding birds, for 
whom helping is presumably more costly, helped less often than non-breeders. In 
fact, only yearling breeders regularly helped: and they stopped helping as soon as 
their chicks hatched and needed their full attention. Older birds usually start 
breeding earlier than yearlings, and this may be one reason that parents rarely 
help their sons — their breeding attempts are already well advanced by the time 
their sons' young hatch. 

This cost-benefit approach highlights some features of Grey-capped Social 
Weaver biology that seem to be important for the communal breeding system - 
and perhaps explain why communal breeding is so rare in related colonial species. 
These features include stable family groups, male philopatry (young males 
staying with the colony), high adult survival, a biased sex-ratio and an asynchrony 
of breeding between yearlings and older birds. Stable family groups arise because 
the species is monogamous (one male mating with one female) and relatively 
sedentary, and young males stay at home. This means that related birds can 
recognise each other and give each other preferential assistance: in other words, 
practise nepotism. This would be impossible in other species, such as many 
Ploceus weavers, where immature birds form into large wandering flocks and 
may never see their parents, or their birth-place, again. In many of these other 
species polygamy (one male mating with many females) also makes the 
formation of kin-groups difficult. Why Social Weavers should be monogamous 
and sedentary is not known, but it probably has a lot to do with their very 
generalist diet — which enables them to live permanently in one fairly small area 
— and their year-round use of a big, bulky nest that is built by both members of 
the pair. 



52 Kenya Birds Volume 4, Number 1, August 1994 

High adult survival increases the chance that close kin will be around next 
year to receive assistance. Female dispersal — the reverse coin of male philopatry 
— probably increases the proportion of young females that die. In turn this causes 
a shortage of mates for young males, and hence a pool of non-breeders who are 
available to help. Because of its timing, female dispersal also causes yearling 
males to start breeding later than their parents. This lag gives them an opportunity 
to help for a while at relatively little cost to themselves. (The causes of female 
dispersal and male philopatry, which are usual in birds, are still a controversial 
matter; in Social Weavers the system may possibly have arisen to avoid 
inbreeding). 

The social life of the Social Weaver has turned out to be surprisingly 
complicated and the story is far from complete. With a human history stretching 
back half a million years, let us hope that Olorgesailie and its Social Weavers will 
still be in good shape for the next student of their behaviour — indeed, for the 
next half-million years. 

"'.'■'■ 

The Leslie Brown Memorial Grant 

In memory of one of the most inspired and productive raptor biologists of recent decades, 
the Raptor Research Foundation announces the availability of this grant, for up to $1,000, to 
provide financial assistance to promote research and/or the dissemination of information on 
birds of prey. 

Applicants must send a resume\ specific study objectives, an account of how funds wil] 
be spent, and a statement indicating how the proposed work would relate to other work by 
the applicant and to other sources of funds. 

Proposals concerning African raptors receive priority, all else being equal. Complete 
applications must be received by 15 September 1995. Send to: Dr Jeff Lincer, Chairperson, 
Raptor Research Foundation, c/o Sweetwater Environmental Biologists, Inc., 3838 Camino 
del Rio North, Suite 270, San Diego, California 92108, USA. Fax: 000 1 619 624 2301. 



Sincere thanks to the following Sponsor subscribers to Kenya Birds for their 
support of the publication: African Wildlife Foundation • Kimbo Beakbane • Mrs R. 
Caldwell • Brooks Childress • Mrs I. K. Coldwell • Peter Davey • Dr Michael G. Davies 

• Art Davis • Mrs Susan Deverell • Heather Elkins • Tom Evans • A. R. Gregory • Jean 
Hartley • Philip Hechle • Jennifer F. M. Home • Mr and Mrs J. A. Hutson • Carol 
Kruger • S. Leparsalaach • Peter and Moira Lincoln-Gordon • Dr Imre J. P. Loefler • 
Annemarie Lohding • Aitong Primary School, Endoinyo Enrika Primary School, 
Lamek Primary School, Mara Riata Primary School, Ngosuani Primary School, 
Nkoilale Primary School, Nkorrkori Primary School, Sekenani Primary School and 
Talek Primary School, through Kimbo Beakbane • Tony Potterton • Mrs Joan Root • M. 
& K Sinclair • Terry Stevenson • Dr R. E. Sutherland • Simon Thomsett • R. G. Timmis 

• Janet Wood • M. W. Woodlock. 



Events and Announcements 



Wednesday Morning Bird Walks led by Fleur Ng'weno and Damaris Rotich 
continue weekly. Meet at 8:45 am at the National Museums entrance for a walk in 
the Nairobi area. These walks are for EANHS members: non-members are 
welcome but requested to join the Society (see below). 

World Birdwatch '95. Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 October 1995. Birdwalks, 
events and national bird mapping — see Editorial and enclosures in this issue. 

East Africa Natural History Society. The Society offers lectures, excursions 
and publications with a strong bird focus. The EANHS also organises ringing and 
nest record schemes in Eastern Africa. For membership details: tel. 749957, or 
write to the Hon. Secretary, EANHS, P O Box 44486 Nairobi. The office at the 
National Museums of Kenya is open each weekday (closed Wednesday morning). 

For sale in the EANHS office: new BirdLife T-shirts in a stunning design 
featuring the Society's emblem, a Long-crested Eagle; Kakamega Forest: the 

Official Guide (newly published); also bird notelets, books and postcards. 

Scopus, the lively regional journal of ornithology, is published three times a 
year by the EANHS Ornithological Sub-committee. Contact Don Turner, P.O. 
Box 48019, Nairobi, Kenya (tel. Nairobi 48133). Annual subscription KSh 600 
(KSh 650 up-country); write for overseas rates. Records are welcomed from the 
East African Bird Report which forms the third issue of Scopus each year. 

African Bird Club. To join this society, which produces an excellent colour 
Bulletin and aims to 'provide a worldwide focus for African ornithology', write 
to: African Bird Club, c/o BirdLife International, Wellbrook Court, Girton Rd., 
Cambridge CB3 ON A, UK. Membership presently costs UK £12 per year. 

Ninth Pan- African Ornithological Congress, 1-8 December 1996, Accra, 
Ghana. For further information write to the Congress Chairman, Yaa Ntiamoa- 
Baidu, Ghana Wildlife Society, P O Box 13252, Accra, Ghana. 

EANHS Nest Record Card Scheme. For information and cards, contact the 
Nest Record Scheme Organiser, Joseph Oyugi, at the Department of Ornithology, 
National Museums of Kenya (address below). 

Bird crafts for sale. On Bird Day, 10 June, the Mikono Centre displayed a 
wide range of attractive crafts for sale, all inspired by birds and made by refugees 
living in the Nairobi area. These and many other handicrafts can be viewed at the 
Mikono Centre at the corner of Kilimani Road and Menelik Rd., Nairobi (off 
Ngong Rd. near Adams Arcade). Tel. 566133, ext. 5. 

Contacts: For Kenya Birds, write to the Department of Ornithology, National 
Museums of Kenya, P O Box 40658, Nairobi, or telephone 742131/61, extension 
243. For BirdLife Kenya, telephone Nairobi 749957; fax 741049. 




3 9088 00997 2985 
Kenya Birds, Volume 4, NumteF Is August 1995 



Editorial , ......„* o......................... ...i 

News from Kenya and abroad 1 

Birding at...OIorgesaiIie Prehistoric Site 16 

Records and Notes 22 

Request for cormorant breeding information .......40 

Letter to the Editors .'.......... 41 

The Augur Buzzard Project ....!l5fe...™..™ .42 

The social life of the Social Weaver .^.:.. ......<,..:,..„. ,. ......................44 

Leslie Brown Memorial Grant..... 52 

Sponsor subscribers 52 

Events and Announcements iii 




Martial Eagle — Martin Woodcock